About the Family Law Week blog

The Family Law Week Blog is a companion site to Family Law Week. It complements the news, cases and articles published on Family Law Week with additional comment and coverage of the wider aspects of family law.

The Blog is edited by Jacqui Gilliatt, of 4 Brick Court and Lucy Reed, of St Johns Chambers.

Friday, 2 May 2008

Applications for leave to revoke placement orders

In Re F (A Child) [2008] EWCA Civ 439 the Court of Appeal has considered the effect of human rights on the interpretation of s 24 of the Adoption & Children Act 1989. The court declined to allow the appeal holding that a local authority had not acted unlawfully in placing a child for adoption when an application for leave to apply to revoke a placement order had been made but not yet heard by the court.

Wall LJ & Wilson LJ dismissed the appeal (Thorpe LJ dissenting) on the basis that the statutory wording was clear and unambiguous. However, they described the actions of the local authority (East Sussex County Council) in the case as a "travesty of good practice which the 2002 Act happens to permit" and "disgraceful" and "the worst I have ever encountered in a career now spanning nearly 40 years". They set out their views which have the approval of the President as to the practice to be followed by local authorities in future and suggest that those who do not observe the good practice recommended will be susceptible to judicial review.

The court recommended that those representing applicants for leave should invite local authorities to give an undertaking that they will take no steps to place (the child) with prospective adopters pending the hearing of the application & if such an undertaking is not given to apply without notice in the first instance to the county court for an order in those terms restraining placement.

Wall & Wilson LJJ concluded without hesitation that the county court has jurisdiction to grant injunctions restraining placement as a temporary, holding measure, until both sides could be before the court. The court could either then give directions for a swift hearing, or resolve the matter summarily.

Local authorities who become aware of applications for leave to apply should have reply promptly providing information as to the state of preparation of its plans and likely timescale for implementation and should themselves apply to the court, on short notice, for leave to place the child for adoption under section 24(5) of the 2002 Act.

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