Charles Geekie QC and Gemma Kelly successfully appealed on behalf of a local authority in the Court of Appeal in Re W (a child) 2016 EWCA Civ 1140.
The appeal was in respect of a fact-finding hearing within care proceedings. The Judge at first instance found allegations of sexual abuse made against family members by an older sibling of the subject children were not proven. This decision was not challenged. However, the Judge went on to make serious findings, without any notice, about the misconduct of a local authority, a social worker and a police officer. These findings were the subject of the appeal.
The judgment considered:
- Whether the social worker and police officer could appeal, as they were not parties to the care proceedings.
- Whether the appellants could appeal findings that did not relate to the decision or order arising out of the fact-finding hearing;
- If so, what remedies were available to them.
The Court of Appeal found that:
- The social worker and police officer could appeal, having become intervenors following the fact-finding hearing, when they were given the opportunity to make submissions about the findings made against them by the first instance Judge.
- Such findings could be appealed if the procedure that led to their making was in breach of their Article 6 or 8 rights.
- A remedy is available in relation to an unlawful judicial act under s7 HRA 1998. The relevant finding would no longer stand and would treated as if they had never been made.
The judgment also gives useful guidance on what procedure should be put in place if it becomes clear to either the parties or the judge that adverse findings, which fall outside the known parameters of a case, may be made against a party or witness.
The judgment can be found at http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2016/1140.html