Judge was wrong not to hear evidence from child’s grandfather
A judge had made a mistake when he failed to hear oral evidence from both sides in a grandfather's application for a child arrangements order.
That was the decision of the Family Court in a case involving an 11-year-old girl.
The girl had been cared for by her grandfather from being a baby until 9 years old, when she made allegations against him. He denied any abuse or wrongdoing. She became the subject of care proceedings and a supervision order was made in February 2018 that she was to live with her mother.
A social worker's report stated that the girl had said that she did not want to see her grandfather anymore and recommended that his application should not be allowed to proceed further.
The judge concluded that the court could not make an order in the grandfather’s favour in those circumstances. There was a risk of further suffering and that further consideration of how capable the grandfather was of meeting the girl's needs was not relevant because he was not a parent.
Those findings have been overturned by the Family Court. It held that the judge made a finding that the girl did not wish to see her grandfather based on limited evidence and failed properly to explore all realistic options as to whether there was any alternative to there being no contact between them.
The judge relied on the social worker's unsworn evidence but did not hear oral evidence from the grandfather. Where the court heard evidence from one side, it was wholly inappropriate not to hear from the other and no reasons were given for the failure to do so.
The judge acted prematurely and unfairly in dismissing the grandfather’s application. He had not done justice to the parties involved and so the case should be remitted for another hearing.