A-F (Children) [2018] EWHC 138 (Fam)

"... [T]he situation of the "young" or "very young" ... does not involve a "confinement" for the purposes of Storck component (a), even though such a child is living in circumstances which plainly satisfy the Cheshire West "acid test". ... For all present purposes, "confinement" means not simply "confining" a young child to a playpen or by closing a door, but something more: an interruption or curtailment of the freedom of action normally to be ascribed to a child of that age and understanding. ... Now at this point in the analysis a difficult question arises which has not hitherto been addressed, at least directly. At what point in the child's development, and by reference to what criteria, does one determine whether and when a state of affairs satisfying the "acid test" in Cheshire West which has hitherto not involved a "confinement" for the purposes of Storck component (a), and where Article 5 has accordingly not been engaged, becomes a "confinement" for that purpose, therefore engaging Article 5 (unless, that is, a valid consent has been given by someone exercising parental responsibility)? ... [W]hether a state of affairs which satisfies the "acid test" amounts to a "confinement" for the purposes of Storck component (a) has to be determined by comparing the restrictions to which the child in question is subject with the restrictions which would apply to a child of the same "age", "station", "familial background" and "relative maturity" who is "free from disability". ... The question is raised as to whether it is possible to identify a minimum age below which a child is unlikely to be "confined", and hence to be deprived of their liberty, given the expectation that a comparable child of the same age would also likely be under continuous supervision and control and not free to leave. ... Inevitably, one has to proceed on a case-by-case basis, having regard to the actual circumstances of the child and comparing them with the notional circumstances of the typical child of (to use Lord Kerr's phraseology) the same "age", "station", "familial background" and "relative maturity" who is "free from disability". ...[T]he best I can do, by way, I emphasise, of little more than 'rule of thumb', is to suggest that: (i) A child aged 10, even if under pretty constant supervision, is unlikely to be "confined" for the purpose of Storck component (a). (ii) A child aged 11, if under constant supervision, may, in contrast be so "confined", though the court should be astute to avoid coming too readily to such a conclusion. (iii) Once a child who is under constant supervision has reached the age of 12, the court will more readily come to that conclusion. That said, all must depend upon the circumstances of the particular case and upon the identification by the judge in the particular case of the attributes of the relevant comparator as described by Lord Kerr. The question is also raised whether, in undertaking the comparison required by the "acid test", the comparison should be made with a 'typical' child of the same age who is subject to a care order. The answer in my judgment is quite clearly, No. ... I turn to matters of process and procedure."

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