On one day during the Covid 19 pandemic the District Court child care list had 25 matters listed before the court. At the call-over stage, 21 of these matters were adjourned by consent to a later date. The majority of the matters that were adjourned were welfare reviews or after-care reviews. The court asked all parties to give consideration prior to the adjournment date as to whether any of the matters could be appropriately dealt with remotely or by way of affidavit to remove the necessity for the parties to attend in court due to the Covid-19 restrictions and to limit the number of people present in the court room.
District Court makes order on consent lifting the in camera rule
In one of the matters heard by the court, the solicitor for the Child and Family Agency (CFA) was present to indicate to the court that there was consent between the parties to lift the in camera rule in respect of four reports consisting of two social worker reports and two guardian ad litem (GAL) reports. There were no legal representatives present in court on behalf of the mother or the GAL but the CFA solicitor indicated to the court that the mother was consenting to the lifting of the in camera rule and the GAL was also supporting the application. The court was satisfied to make an order on consent under section 47 of the Child Care Act 1991 with the usual terms that the reports were only to be released on the terms agreed and are then to be returned to the CFA.
The solicitor told the Court that there had been a long extension of interim care orders with a close relative and the mother was not in a position to care for the child. The solicitor told the court that to keep momentum in the matter the previous President of the District Court had listed the section 18 care order on numerous occasions before the court. The ICO was returnable before the court a month later and the solicitor told the court that they had “tentatively discussed” one further extension of the interim care order on that date. The court agreed to list the section 18 on the same date for mention.
District Court extends interim care order for two months on consent by way of affidavit for six-month-old baby
The court was informed that the District Court had made an interim care order for a baby in December 2019 and the baby was now nearly six months old. The solicitor for the CFA told the court that it was an unusual situation in that the baby was placed with a close relative and the mother was also present in the home.
CFA solicitor: “There is a robust safety plan in place. It is unusual as the mother was previously a ward of court and has mental health issues. The arrangement is working very well and the [relative] is remarkable and she is able to safeguard the child from the mum.”
The CFA told the court that there remained concerns in respect of the mother’s drug misuse and that the mother was expressing no interest in the baby. The court was told that the relative intends to obtain guardianship but that because of the Covid-19 restrictions there was uncertainty about how soon the guardianship application could be heard.
The court asked about the whereabout of the father and the CFA solicitor told the court that there was a question mark over the paternity of the child and the suspected father had been made aware of the proceedings but had shown no interest in the child, though he had agreed to undergo a DNA test. This DNA test had been delayed due to issues in respect of a medical card but the issues had since been resolved and the test was due to be undertaken shortly.
The CFA solicitor provided an affidavit to the court and indicated that there was consent from the mother for a two-month extension of the interim care order and the GAL was also supporting the extension.
The judge was satisfied to extend the interim care order for two months by consent and also directed that that when the results of the DNA test are returned, and if the suspected father is confirmed as the father of the child, that he is to be served with the proceedings immediately and that he is to be advised in respect of legal aid. The judge gave liberty to the parties to seek to re-enter the matter on notice to all parties if he is confirmed to be the father of the child. The interim care order was extended for two months on consent and the section 18 application was adjourned to the same date.
District Court adjourns for four months review of child in care since 2014 and lifts in camera rule on reports
A review was before the District Court in respect of a child that was the subject of a full care order made in July 2014 that had been before the court for review regularly. The solicitor for the CFA applied to the court for the review to be adjourned to September. The court was told that the father was in prison but that he had expressed a wish to participate in the review. The father had “made clear” that he did not wish to be produced in court.
The solicitor told the court that the GAL and the father had both provided letters outlining their consent to the court making an order pursuant to section 47 of the Child Care Act 1991 lifting the in camera rule on a psychological report to be provided to the child’s school. The solicitor said that a previous date had been arranged by video-link with the father but due to Covid-19 it was not possible for the arrangement to be facilitated. As the father was consenting to the application and the GAL was supporting the application the court was satisfied to make the order pursuant to section 47 lifting the in camera rule on the report to be provided to the school on the agreed terms only with the usual directions.
As the child was nearing the commencement of secondary school the court listed the welfare review in September. The judge asked the CFA to notify the father of this date and to inform him that if he wished to appear by video link or by any other manner on that date that he had to notify the court office so that it could make the necessary arrangements.