RP v Nottingham City Council  EWCA Civ 462
Role of Official Solicitor considered.
- RP v UK 38245/08  ECHR 1124 (statement of facts)
Family Law Week have kindly agreed for their case summary to be reproduced on this page.
Appeal against care and placement orders on grounds that the appellant's human rights had been breached for not having had a fair trial and that the Official Solicitor should not have been instructed to act on her behalf. Appeal dismissed.
The appellant (RP) was the mother of a prematurely born child (KP) who had serious medical problems requiring skilled care. KP was placed with foster parents at birth where she has remained during the care proceedings. During the proceedings RP was represented by the Official Solicitor as she was assessed not to have capacity to consent to a placement order. The Official Solicitor did not oppose the orders.
The case is of interest as it gave the Court a chance to examine the role of the Official Solicitor in such circumstances and it also gave an opportunity for the Court to respond to allegations about the Family Justice system arising from the involvement of John Hemming MP, who is campaigning for greater openness in the family courts and acted as RP's McKenzie Friend. In the Court of Appeal, RP argued, among other things, that the expert psychologist assessing RP had failed properly to address the question of RP's capacity and that she was unaware that the Official Solicitor was representing her.
In this judgment Wall LJ conducts a lengthy review of both the evidence of a RP's solicitors file in the care proceedings (privilege had been waived) and the background and assessment of the clinical psychologist involved. He concludes that the solicitor's records made it clear that RP was aware of the involvement of the Official Solicitor and that Mr Hemming's allegations that the file had been altered could be rejected "out of hand". He also found that the expert's assessment of RP's capacity had been properly carried out and was in line with the guidance set out in Masterman-Lister before going on to reject Mr Hemming's "outrageous" allegations that the expert had been biased to the local authority. Having dispensed with these allegations, he reviews the merits of RP's case and concludes, that given the level of care required by KP and the mother's own capabilities, care and placement orders were inevitable and that RP's potential as a carer had been fairly considered.
The judgment concludes with Wall LJ's thoughts on how a local authority should proceed under the PLO where there is an issue concerning the parent's capacity.