Hearing Impairment and Public Law Children Act Proceedings

20 Mar

The Court of Appeal has recently given guidance on the treatment of parties to care proceedings who have impaired hearing. Re C (A Child) Court of Appeal 21.1.14 was a judgement by Lord Justices Rimer, McFarlane and Vos in a child care case where the mother suffered from cognitive and learning disabilities and some hearing impairment; and the father was profoundly deaf. The case follows on from the judgment of Baker J in Wiltshire Council v N 2013 EWHC Civ 3502.

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Hearing Impairment

The Court of Appeal has recently given guidance on the treatment of parties to care proceedings who have impaired hearing. Re C (A Child) Court of Appeal 21.1.14 was a judgement by Lord Justices Rimer, McFarlane and Vos in a child care case where the mother suffered from cognitive and learning disabilities and some hearing impairment; and the father was profoundly deaf. The case follows on from the judgment of Baker J in Wiltshire Council v N 2013 EWHC Civ 3502.

The Court of Appeal advises that where one of the parent parties to a care or placement order case is deaf that the Court and the other parties need to take account of the following:-

1.    That it is necessary to ensure all agencies understand at an early stage that one of the parties is profoundly deaf. That this kind of disability is not merely an issue of interpretation and translation – it requires expert insight and support by a suitably qualified person.
2.    That those acting for the deaf party need to identify the hearing and disability issues at an early stage and make all other parties and the Court aware of their existence and their potential impact on the party concerned and the progress of the case.
3.    That there is a need for special measures to be used as part of good case management.
4.    That an appropriate expert should assess the impact of the hearing disability at the CMH stage using an interpreter.
5.    That funding should be available from the Legal Aid Agency, the Courts Service and the Local Authority to enable the expert involvement and assessment to happen.

In Re C the failure to carry out these measures and safeguards led to the care and placement proceedings being compromised to such an extent that the father, the judge and the child had been seriously disadvantaged. There was a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to offer the appropriate level of support to persons with (amongst other things) hearing impairment of all levels.

Dylan Morgan

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