A District court in a rural area refused to make a full care order for a year in respect of a small baby and instead encouraged the parents to consent to a shorter order so that they could obtain legal representation.
The social worker was present and told the judge that she was the author of her report. The social worker did not give oral evidence and the judge was satisfied that the threshold was met having read the report previously. Neither the judge nor the parents asked the social worker any questions by way of cross examination.
The baby had been in care for over six months. Both parents were present in court and neither parent was represented. The matter had been before the court on several occasions since the baby was taken into care at birth and on each occasion the parents said that they needed time to get legal representation. The judge said: “I’m not impressed that six months down the road, we are still no further.”
On this occasion the father said that he had recently attended the legal aid centre in a city an hour away and he was waiting on them to come on board. The mother said that she had attended the local legal aid board that morning.
The judge said that he hoped the parents could consent to a four-month order and explained that when the lawyers came on board, they would need to get information and then get a date for a hearing.
The mother asked the judge if they could get the case heard before September and he said that was not possible because they were only getting their lawyers on board now. The mother was obviously distressed and the judge then said: “Perhaps we could put it in in two months’ time,” and the parents agreed to extend the interim care order for two months.
The judge told the parents that they needed to cooperate to get the case heard and warned that if the parents did not deal with the issue of legal representation, it would reflect on them at the hearing.