RE :C (Children: Welfare)(No.2)  EWFC B36
In July 2020 the Family Court heard C (Children: Welfare)(No.2)  EWFC B36, a Public Law case concerning the welfare of two children aged 12 and 10 years, one of whom had complex care needs. Their mother, who was also diagnosed with ASD, wanted to put forward alternative Care Plans.
In what is likely to be the first case of its kind, the court made unique arrangements to allow the mother to give her oral evidence.
Whilst in the witness box the mother was presented with written questions and then allowed to type her answers in real time. Those answers were read out before moving on to the next question. The advocates were able to amend or ask additional questions which were again typed in real time by the mother’s intermediary, and the above process repeated. Whilst the mother gave her evidence she also wore headphones which played white noise, to minimise stimuli that could have been distracting or distressing.
These innovative arrangements were suggested by an experience intermediary, who had supported the mother throughout the proceedings.
Although the suggestions were initially met with some understandable anxiety by those involved in the case, HHJ Moradifar said the approach had proved ‘highly successful’. It had enabled the mother to fully participate and to be effectively questioned on important issues in the case.
This is a great example of the profession’s ability to adapt the court process to ensure fair access to justice.