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Law Report: Father's contact applications refused: W v Ealing London Borough Council - Court of Appeal (Sir Stephen Brown, President, Lord Justice Simon Brown and Lord Justice Peter Gibson), 19 May 1993.

An application for a contact order under the Children Act 1989 which sought to undermine earlier unappealed orders made in wardship should be dealt with robustly and could be considered by a court on submissions without hearing oral evidence.

The Court of Appeal dismissed a father's appeal from Mr Justice Connell's dismissal of the father's applications for contact with two children. The father is the natural father of a boy, aged three, and stepfather of a girl of seven. In wardship proceedings in June 1992 the children were placed in the care of the local authority which was given leave to place the children with long-term foster parents with a view to adoption. Leave was given to terminate contact between the father and the children. That decision was not challenged on appeal. The father continued to have contact with the children.

In October 1992, the local authority informed the father that it intended to terminate contact in January prior to the children being placed with foster parents. On the day before the father's farewell contact visit, the father told the council that he intended to make applications for contact under section 34 of the Children Act 1989.

Mr Justice Connell, who heard submissions but no oral evidence, decided that the applications struck at the root of the earlier order in wardship and ran directly contrary to the proposals approved by the court. He dismissed the applications.

James Munby QC and Heather MacGregor (Beckman & Beckman) for the father; Roderic Wood QC and Laura Harris (Borough Solicitor) for the local authority; Jennifer Boswell (Clinton Davis Cushing & Kelly) for the guardian ad litem.

SIR STEPHEN BROWN P, giving the court's judgment, said that in Cheshire County Council v M (1993) 1 FLR 463 Mr Justice Thorpe said that it was necessary for a court to act robustly in determining an application brought by a natural parent fortuitously under the 1989 Act where the application sought to strike at the root of an earlier order in wardship. That case was rightly decided and followed by Mr Justice Connell.

The approach which it enjoined would apply only in the limited class of case where the advent of the Children Act 1989 provided a fortuitous opportunity to seek to undermine orders made in wardship to secure the welfare of children after full investigation and which had not been challenged on appeal.

The judge was fully justified in dismissing the father's applications.

Ying Hui Tan, Barrister