South Glos

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Supreme Court refuses to hear appeal by mother over adoption orders despite procedural irregularity

The Supreme Court has refused a mother permission to appeal after her application to revoke an adoption order was rejected despite an acknowledged procedural irregularity at an earlier hearing.

The background to the case was that care proceedings concerning two of the mother's children were commenced in May 2018 when it was discovered that one of them had sustained a series of injuries.

The two children were removed from the care of their mother and father under interim care orders and placed into foster care.

In April 2019, the mother then gave birth to the youngest of her three children who was also placed into foster care under an interim care order.

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On 14 June 2019, following a finding that the injuries suffered by one of the children were inflicted upon them by their parents, all three of the children were made the subject of a final care and placement order by His Honour Judge Booth.

Permission to appeal against that order was refused by the Court of Appeal. Adoption applications were subsequently filed in respect of the children.

On 21 February 2020, HHJ Booth dismissed the parents’ applications for leave to oppose the adoptions. Permission to appeal against that order was also refused by the Court of Appeal.

The adoption applications were listed for a hearing in person before HHJ Booth on 6 April 2020. The mother was given advanced notice of the hearing.

However, on 1 April 2020, the mother was informed that the hearing would take place by telephone in light of the burgeoning COVID-19 pandemic. On the same day, the mother was subsequently informed that there “will be no telephone hearing as previously directed”.

On 6 April 2020, HHJ Booth made the adoption orders in respect of the children in the absence of the mother, without a hearing.

Peel J dismissed an application by the mother to revoke the orders.

In I-A (Revocation of Adoption Order) [2021] EWCA Civ 1222 Baker LJ, with whom Sir Stephen Irwin and Lord Justice Bean agreed, said: “I am entirely satisfied that the decision to make an adoption order without a hearing in the absence of the mother was indeed a procedural irregularity."

However, the Court of Appeal went on to find that the procedural irregularity “did not amount to a fundamental breach of natural justice” and left the mother involved still able to apply for leave to bring an application for contact.

A Supreme Court panel comprising Lord Reed, Lord Hodge and Lord Stephens has now refused the mother permission to appeal because the application did not "raise an arguable point of law of general public importance which ought to be considered at this time bearing in mind that the case has already been the subject of judicial decision and reviewed on appeal”.

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