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.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Court has power to commit a Director of Children's Services for contemptuous breach of s34 contact order

An interesting but very specific point arose in this recently published Court of Appeal decision in the case of A Local Authority v HP & Anor [2009] EWCA Civ 143: the court does have the power to endorse a penal notice addressed to a local authority on an order for contact with a child in care pursuant to s34(4) Children Act 1989, and where appropriate may commit for contempt of court if that endorsed order is breached.

There was no actual application to commit in this case, the issue on appeal was whether or not the penal notice should even have been endorsed. Thankfully the endorsement was warning enough and prompted compliance.

It is uncontroversial to say that a penal notice can only properly be attached where the order in question is actually enforceable by committal - it cannot be an empty threat. But the circumstances in which committal will actually follow are likely to be unusual or exceptional indeed. It is unusual enough for a local authority to simply defy the court, it would be more unusual still for it to do so under threat of imprisonment.


Anonymous said...

Social Services are well known to defy the courts.

There is a case where the ICO was refused in the High Court, but the child is gone??supposedly adopted.

No paper trail left behind.

Social services call Judges their Rubberstamps- so maybe now the courts are taking back their power.

Anonymous said...

Very well done to the Judge in this case. Can only pray that there are more out there with the integrity to stand up for Justice.

In a case I am connected to, the court bundle is so flawed with frivolous litigation, allegations are over exaggerated to say the least, fabrications are commonplace, and speculation is the thread tying the whole thing together.

How is it then that the SW and LA are prepared to march into court and expect the Judge to 'rubber stamp' their case without fear of being thrown in jail?

Surely, Judges need to start making an example of some of these 'practitioners' and Directors into jail or at least bar them from working with the Childrens services ever again?