Re [2020] EWCOP1

The Protected Party (P) is a young man aged 20, who is severely impaired by autism.  The Applicant in this matter was P’s mother, the First Respondent, P’s father, and Second Respondent P’s stepmother.

The matter related to an application brought by P’s mother, who was subject to a civil restraint order, for permission to make a substantive application concerning the nature and quantum of her contact to P.  P has been cared for by his father and stepmother for seventeen years.  He cannot be left alone unsupervised and requires constant, highly skilled therapeutic support.  The support team is managed by P’s stepmother. P’s father is a successful businessman and provides financial support, with contributions from the local authority.

The present regime of contact for P’s mother was fixed by Mr Justice Wood in 2012, and amounted to four occasions for contact each year at quarterly intervals, for two hours on each occasion, taking place under supervision.  This was confirmed by Mostyn J in 2016, when injunctions were also made controlling P’s mother’s behaviour in relation to P and his family.  The Applicant was requesting that contact be increased to fortnightly, unsupervised, visits in her own home.  Whilst it was recognised this may be unrealistic, it was argued that with P attaining the age of majority, and passage of time generally, there should be a further complete welfare review of whether contact arrangements should be re-assessed.  P’s father’s position was that there had been no material change to P’s circumstances since the current contact regime was established.  It was further noted that it could not be arguably shown that P would benefit from any increased contact and that the litigation process would be stressful to P and his family.

In making his judgment, Mostyn J did not place any significance on P attaining the age of majority.  P has a mental age of about seven, and his attainment of majority signified nothing.   P was not entitled to be afforded more respect to his right to autonomy than prevailed in the period leading up to his 18th birthday.Mostyn J identified that the decision at hand was whether a good arguable case had been shown that it was in P’s best interest for there to be a full welfare investigation of the current contact arrangements. 

The application was refused using the same thresholds applied for judicial review matters; P’s mother had not shown a good arguable case that a substantive application would be successful if permission was granted.   The evidence filed demonstrated that P displayed worrying behaviour prior to and after his mother’s visits and the judge could not be satisfied the circumstances had sufficiently changed since the previous contact regime was fixed.  Mostyn J concluded that if permission should be granted, he could see potential for stress and unhappiness not only to P but also his family.

The full judgement can be read here

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