Law Report: Relevant time for care order conditions to be satisfied: Re M (a minor; Care order conditions). House of Lords (Lord Mackay of Clashfern, Lord Chancellor, Lord Jauncey of Tullichettle, Lord Slynn of Hadley and Lord Nolan) 21 July 1994.

The conditions in section 31(2) of the Children Act 1989, on which the court's jurisdiction depended before it could make a child care or supervision order, would normally need to be satisfied as at the date when the order was first applied for, rather than at the date of the court's hearing.

The House of Lords allowed an appeal by M's father, reversed the decision of the Court of Appeal ((1994) 2 WLR 200) and restored the decision of Mrs Justice Bracewell, on 12 February 1993, making a care order in favour of the local authority in respect of M and substituting a residence order in favour of Mrs W.

Allan Levy QC and Elizabeth Gumbel (Meaby & Co) for M's father; Roger Hayward-Smith QC and Laura Harris (Hudgell & Partners) for Mrs W; James Munby QC and Sandra Graham (David Atkinson, Woolwich) for Greenwich London Borough Council.

LORD MACKAY LC said M's mother was of a Jamaican family but born in England. She already had, by two other fathers, a son born in 1984 and twins born in 1987 when, in 1990, she married M's father, a Nigerian. M was born on 28 June 1991.

Tragedy struck on 12 October 1991, when the father, with a meat cleaver and a knife, brutally murdered the mother at her home in the presence of all four children.

Emergency proceedings were taken to protect the children. The other three children were placed with Mrs W, the mother's cousin, who was granted a residence order.

M was placed with a short-term foster mother, where he remained until November 1993 when, following the Court of Appeal's judgment, he also went to Mrs W. He had lived there since and had settled down well.

The question was whether the requirements of section 31(2) of the Children Act 1989 had been satisfied. This provided: 'A court may only make a care order or supervision order if it is satisfied (a) that the child concerned is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm; and (b) that the harm, or likelihood of harm, is attributable to (i) the care given to him if the order were not made, not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give to him.'

The judge concluded that these requirements were satisfied. She found M was suffering significant harm in that he had suffered ill-treatment by being permanently deprived of his mother's love and care when she was murdered in his presence, and that significant harm was attributable to the care given to M by his father not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give him.

She was further satisfied that if an order were not made, M would be likely to suffer significant harm in that he was a small child with special needs, had no permanent home, and the only person with parental responsibility was the father, who was unable to exercise it appropriately or fully because he was serving a life sentence with an order of deportation on release. But the Court of Appeal concluded there was no material before the judge entitling her to find that, at the date of the hearing, M was suffering significant harm of the relevant kind, and held that the threshold conditions of the section were not satisfied.

In his Lordship's opinion, however, the opening words of section 31 linked the making of the order by the court very closely with the application to the court by a local authority or authorised person. The natural construction of the conditions in section 31(2) was that where, at the time the application was to be disposed of, there were in place interim arrangements for the child's protection by the local authority, which protection had been continuously in place for some time, the relevant date with respect to which the court must be satisfied was the date at which the local authority initiated those arrangements.

If, after a local authority had initiated protective arrangements, the need for these terminated, because the child's welfare was satisfactorily provided for otherwise, it would not be possible in any subsequent proceedings to found jurisdiction on the situation at the time of initiation of these arrangements; it was permissible only to look back from the date of disposal to the date of initiation of protection where local authority arrangements had been continuously in place.

LORD TEMPLEMAN, LORD JAUNCEY, LORD SLYNN and LORD NOLAN concurred.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions