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
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

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager - eCommerce - OTE £100k

£50000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award-winning digital age...

Recruitment Genius: Training and Development Consultant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This software development organisation are loo...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable