Law Report: Same judge for adoption and contact: Re A (a minor). Court of Appeal (Lord Justice Butler-Sloss, Lord Justice Stuart-Smith and Lord Justice Farquharson), 15 June 1993 (CORRECTED)

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Since it is possible under the Children Act 1989 to free a child for adoption as well as to order continuing contact with a parent, the judge hearing the adoption application should also hear any contact application affecting the parent.

The Court of Appeal unanimously dismissed a mother's appeal from Judge Batterbury's order in Medway County Court freeing the child, A, for adoption.

A was in the care of the local authority which applied to free him for adoption.

The judge found it was in A's best interests that he should be adopted, dispensed with the agreement of his mother and father, freed A for adoption and ordered monthly contact of one and half hours with his mother until the adoption hearing.

The mother appealed against the freeing order, contending that it was unsuitable to make a monthly contact order side-by-side with dispensing with the consent of the parent enjoying that degree of contact.

Susannah Walker (Redfern & Stigant, Gillingham) for the mother; Mhairi McNab (Council Solicitor) for the council; Alan Inglis (Stantons, Strood) for the guardian ad litem.

LORD JUSTICE BUTLER-SLOSS said that the effect of an order freeing a child for adoption was to bring to an end the relationship between the child and his natural family.

Since the Children Act, a judge had the opportunity both to free but also to preserve contact between the child and the natural family pending adoption. A section 8 application, including a contact application, could be made in any family proceedings.

The mother could be heard on the only issue which remained: whether she could have continuing contact after an adoption order was made.

If a freeing order was made with a section 8 contact order, the judge should give the appropriate directions to ensure that, if possible, the judge who heard the adoption application was also the judge who heard any contact application affecting the former parent.

A situation must not arise where one judge found that it was in the child's interest that the mother should continue to see him throughout his childhood, whereas another judge heard an adoption on the basis of no future contact with the natural family.


In Re A (a minor), the Independent, 2 July 1993, Ian Karsten QC also appeared for the guardian ad litem.