STOP PRESS – Sara Chalk reported in Court of Appeal representing child through her children’s guardian- Re N (A Child) [2019] EWCA Civ 1997

In March 2018 Sara Chalk represented the child through her Children’s Guardian at a 5 day fact finding hearing regarding non-accidental injuries of multiple bruises on several parts of the body including to the head, face, chest, back, thigh and ear. The case had some complexities due to there being 6 intervenors who were litigants in persons. Two of these intervenors had learning difficulties and therefore had the benefit of an intermediary. At the conclusion of the 5 day fact finding hearing the mother and her partner were found to be in the "pool" for the perpetration of the injuries to the child.  

Following conclusion of the fact finding hearing a psychological assessment and parenting assessment of the mother and her partner were directed. During the assessment process regarding the welfare stage of the proceedings the psychologist reported that the mother had difficulty in terms of her ability to understand and express herself verbally. The mother’s solicitor sought a report by an intermediary and this recommended that the mother have the assistance of an intermediary. An application was then made to the trial judge on behalf of mother to reopen the fact finding hearing and set aside the previous findings in light of the psychological assessment and intermediary report. The judge refused the mother's application for a rehearing. The mother appealed this decision.

In November 2019 the Court of Appeal held that a wholesale failure to apply the Family Proceedings Rules 2010, Part 3A made it highly likely that the resulting trial would be judged to have been unfair. The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and ordered a re-hearing which is due to take place in March 2020 at which Sara Chalk will once again represent the Children’s Guardian.