Council told evidence offered was inadequate

    Re C (children) (residential assessment) (4 July 2001): This was
    a stark warning to local authorities that they must prepare their
    case carefully, if they seek to oppose an application under section
    38(6) for a family residential assessment.

    The court of appeal held that it was important to give proper
    weight to the benefits to the children subject to the application
    from such assessment, compared with the wider responsibility of the
    authority generally. It was important to look at the impact of the
    substantial spend compared to the authority’s ability to provide
    other services to other children. But in the particular case it was
    accepted that there was only one appropriate centre for the
    family.

    The authority had failed to put any adequate evidence before the
    court and such statements as had been made had been fundamentally
    and dangerously misleading. Natural justice had to apply to the
    family law system. A local authority had to understand that if it
    wanted to persuade a judge that a direction for residential
    assessment constituted disproportionate expenditure on a single
    family, the authority had to present a case prepared in accordance
    with ordinary rules and practices relating to the filing of
    statements and the conduct at the trial or fixture. The evidence
    before the court had been quite insufficient to begin to discharge
    the burden on the authority to prove a money defence on an
    application which had been found to be necessary. The authority was
    ordered to fund the residential assessment sought.

    Richard White

    White and Sherwin Solicitors

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