Comment and Analysis Masthead

Stalking of a foster placement

RCJ portrait 146x219A recent Court of Appeal case will be of significant interest to local government family practitioners, writes Dominic Boothroyd.

The case of Re T [2017] EWCA Civ 1889 arose out of a care order placing the child in a foster placement, in circumstances where the mother was prevented from knowing the location of the placement.

Some considerable time after the child was placed in the foster placement mother was found to have located the placement and undertaken a course of “stalking” the placement but without actually disrupting the placement or making herself known to the child and foster carers.

The local authority sought Inherent Jurisdiction injunctions against the mother and her partner and these were granted in the ordinary way by the Family Court. However the appeal arose because at first instance the authority invited the court to make an order under the Family Law Act which would effectively have enabled the police to exercise a power of arrest.

The settled law had been that a local authority is not able to bring such an application in its own right and as a consequence the power of protection available to a local authority post the making of a care order were severely limited.

The effect of this case is to allow the local authority (where there are inherent jurisdiction injunction proceedings before the court) to invite the court to make an order under the Family Law Act.

The second point of importance relates to the clarification the court gave in terms of the meaning of “molestation”. As well as restating the wide ambit of conduct that might amount to an act of molestation the court specifically coped that there was no need for the conduct to have been intended to cause distress or upset, but rather acknowledge that the basis for a finding could be upheld where that conduct simply had the consequence of causing or being likely to cause distress or harassment to the child. In this case that meant the prospect of the child's foster placement being disrupted.

Dominic Boothroyd is a barrister at Angel Chambers. He appeared for the council before the Court of Appeal.

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