The BBC recently reported that two children were to be adopted ‘as kisses and cuddles [were] not enough‘.
The use of a direct quotation and the inclusion of the judge’s name in the headline and article, enabled us to locate the judgment in the case that the BBC were referring to with ease. It is the judgment of His Honour Judge Dancey in this case : A Local Authority v G (Parent with Learning Disability)  EWFC B94 (18 December 2017) and anyone who wants to can read it in full on BAILII here. The best place to start is at Annex A which you will find near the bottom, which is the ‘easy read’ version of the judge’s explanation for his decision. This was prepared by the judge for the parents and the children themselves (the mother is learning disabled), but it is really useful for anyone non-legal in getting to grips with what the case was about.
The use of easy read versions of judgments is something which is getting more common. We think these are a great idea, and not just for the families involved. It would be an even better idea if the easy read version or summary was put at the top of any published judgment so that interested members of the public would be more likely to find it before giving up in bafflement at the longer, more technical version (in this particular judgment it is 253 paragraphs before you find Annex A).
The Times reported here that :
A judge has ruled that two young children should be removed from their mother, who has a learning difficulty, and their father despite accepting that the parents love them both and do the best they can.
Because the judge criticised the support that the learning disabled mother in this case was given, but then went on to approve the placement of the children for adoption, we’ve seen that some people have worried from the reporting of this case that children are being too readily removed from their learning disabled parents for adoption when in fact more support to them would have enabled them to stay with their family safely. We are going to look at whether or not, based on the judgment, this seems to be so in this particular case.
It is right that the judge is critical of the support that the parents were given, but he also goes on to say that he doesn’t think that even with support the parents could manage the care of the two children. So, the judge didn’t approve the adoption of the children because support wasn’t being made available – the judge thought that better support wouldn’t have made enough difference, or that the level of support that would be needed to keep the children safe would be so overwhelming that it would amount to the children being parented by lots of different people, which would be damaging for them.
The judge also said that the father (who was not learning disabled) didn’t pull his weight in helping the mother out, in areas where she struggled. And he also said that the stress of caring for the children had caused them to be depressed (which of course made it harder for them to cope).
The judge did acknowledge all the efforts that the parents had made to improve things, but decided that he had no option but to approve the plan for adoption.
Although some news reports mentioned that the judge had criticised the support given by the local authority, none of those that we have seen made clear that the judge ruled that better support would not have been a solution.
Of course there is room for disagreement with the judge about the decision he has made, but he hasn’t made the decision just because support would be too expensive or difficult or just because the mother was learning disabled.
We noticed that lots of people were asking questions about this case on twitter when they saw reports of it, worried about the points we’ve raised above – it would have been really helpful if the BBC and other outlets who reported on this case had linked to the judgment on the BAILII website for those of their readers who were interested in it.