• Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Trinity Chambers specialist Family barrister, John O’Sullivan was instructed to represent two of the five adult respondents in the recently reported child care proceedings Re A and B (Wardship and Supervision Order) heard in the Falkland Islands’ Magistrates Court and Supreme Court before The Senior Magistrate C.J. Gumsley. 

The proceedings related to two children who were removed from their immediate family as a result of an emergency protection order following allegations of sexual abuse. Under an interim care order the children then resided with members of the extended family. The threshold criteria had been satisfied at the fact-finding hearing. 

Rather than final orders being made, a comprehensive package of support was planned as part of a care plan for the children to be rehabilitated to the family. In the course of the proceedings several significant issues emerged in relation to the Falkland Islands’ child protection procedures and it's children's services approach, provision and resources for children on the Islands. 

Given that the Supreme Court of the Falkland Islands has the same powers as the English High Court the Court held that there was jurisdiction to make wardship orders in conjunction with supervision orders, and decided to take that course in the exceptional circumstances of the case. 

In view of these difficulties and partly in response to a request of the Islands’ Governor for disclosure of the judgment, the Court was asked on behalf of the Children's Guardian at a subsequent hearing to decide whether the judgment in Re A and B should be published. The Judge hearing the matter was again The Senior Magistrate C.J. Gumsley who was also sitting in his capacity as a Supreme Court Judge. He found that the concerns which had been highlighted by the case made general publication of the judgment in the public interest. Publication would also the highlight to the public that the Court always exercised its powers independently of the administration and with the welfare of all children as its paramount concern.

In balancing the public interest in open justice and the important concerns surrounding identification of the parties and the children it was determined that those concerns could be sufficiently dealt with through appropriate editing and redaction of the published judgment. This would be necessarily accompanied by an injunction for the protection of the children having analysed the statutory protections for children available within the Falklands Islands in these circumstances. 

Trinity barrister John O’Sullivan was one of three specialist family law counsel from England and Wales who travelled to the Falkland Islands and also participated in interim hearings by means of Skype and e-mail during these care proceedings. 

John O’Sullivan is a member of Trinity Chambers’ Family and Matrimonial Finance and Mental Health and Court of Protection practice groups.