A father’s fight to maintain contact with his son came a step closer recently, it was revealed in Family Law Week, when he won a second appeal against a case which originally saw all contact restricted between the man and his son.
In the original case heard in February last year at the Family Court in Reading, a young boy’s step-father had applied both for an adoption order and a no order for contact, thereby cutting off all contact between the biological father and the boy. His Honour Judge Oliver permitted both orders, based principally on an annexe A report.
An annexe A report is a document prepared by a local authority officer, based on research into the case. Its aim is to ensure the safeguarding of a child, particularly where that child is not represented in the adoption proceedings.
Six months after the original hearing, the case came before His Honour Judge Tolson QC. The judge heard that there were several issues which effectively made the annexe A report flawed. Of most concern was the fact that the social worker who had carried out the assessment on the boy’s biological father – a necessary part of an annexe A report – was in fact a colleague of the boy’s mother. In addition, the report failed to address the key question of whether the boy had been alienated from his biological father.
The question was then debated, as to whether the report was biased, and HHJ Tolson instructed that another, independent social worker, should address the issues of adoption and contact. In addition, he ordered that the annexe A should have an addendum, to highlight the areas which had been identified as being flawed.
An appeal was granted, to which the step-father and mother were initially opposed but later took up a more neutral position. The appeal took place at the Court of Appeal in November and was heard by Lord Justice Richards, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Ryder and Lord Justice Sales.
The day prior to the proceedings, the boy’s step-father and mother wrote to the court, explaining that they would be absent for childcare reasons but that they offered no strong opposition to a revised annexe A being submitted, provided that their son’s viewpoint was accurately recorded and interpreted.
The court found that the original annexe A document was indeed flawed and so should not be relied upon as evidence but removed from the bundle. Thereafter, the submission of a new annexe A by an independent social worker was ordered.