Governors of the Peabody Trust v Lawrence
Philcox Gray’s Partner and Head of Housing Ruth Camp, acted for the defendant in her successful defence of a possession order sought by a local housing association.
Our client had lived in a property with her mother, who was the secure tenant, since she was four. Her mother had a long history of depression and mental health problems. Our client became the main carer for her mother from the age of 10. Sadly her mother took her own life.
Our client succeeded to the tenancy and but was also suffering from her own mental health problems. Following her mother’s death, she needed regular care and support through the day and night. She did not have a full-time carer, but relied on the help and support of a large network of family, friends and neighbours. The housing association asserted that the property, which had three bedrooms, was too large for her needs. It claimed possession under Housing Act (HA) 1985 Sch 2 Pt III ground 16. We supported our client in arguing that it was not reasonable to grant possession and, in any event, suitable alternative accommodation would need two bedrooms as she required space for her overnight carers to sleep and outside space for her dog, which was a source of support to her.
At the 2 day trial, the Central London County Court Judge found that a one-bedroom property was not suitable alternative accommodation as the defendant reasonably required two bedrooms. Our client also needed a ground floor property with a secure area for her dog to be exercised. The Judge found that while there was a very substantial demand for family-sized housing in the London, in all the circumstances, the risk of harm to our client if moved, outweighed the social benefit of freeing up a three bedroom house. It was therefore not reasonable to make a possession order. The Judge ordered that the claimants pay the defendant’s costs.
After the hearing Ruth Camp commented: “this was a great result for our client; it gives her the opportunity to now finally grieve for her mother and move on with her life, and to seek to address her own health problems for the future”
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Beverley King, Partner and joint Head of the Family Department at Philcox Gray, recently represented the father of a two year old child on a successful application for a Declaration of Parentage and Child Arrangements Order in respect of contact.
The father had been in a relationship with the mother for some years prior to the birth of the child. The couple had been unable to conceive naturally and received IVF treatment, which concluded with the mother conceiving by sperm donation. As far as the father was concerned the clear intention at the time of the treatment was that he would be the legal parent of the child. All of the necessary forms were signed by both parents at the Fertility Clinic. The couple separated soon after the birth of the child and the father’s contact completely broke down when the child was approximately one year of age.
The father made applications to the court for a Declaration of Parentage and a Child Arrangements Order for regular contact. During the course of the proceedings the mother denied that the forms conferring legal parentage on the father had actually been signed by both of them at the Clinic. The mother effectively wanted to “wipe” the father out of the child’s life and was seeking a declaration that he was not the father of the child. The Clinic were very unhelpful during the proceedings and failed to produce important documents which supported the father’s case despite a number of Court Orders to do so . It actually took the Clinic over 6 months to disclose critically important documents. It was astonishing that the Clinic did not appear to take the court proceedings seriously until a Court Order with a penal notice attached ordered the Medical Director’s attendance at a court hearing if there was any further failure to produce information and documents.
The relevant forms were in fact never produced but other evidence was produced by the Clinic shortly before a contested hearing and this evidence proved that the forms had been signed. Without a doubt the Clinic’s limited disclosure of documents until the eleventh hour served to prolong the proceedings unnecessarily and increase anxiety for both the mother and father. Once the relevant documents were received from the Clinic, the mother withdrew her opposition to the father having a Declaration of Parentage in his favour. The Court formalised the parties agreement and made a Declaration of Parentage in favour of the father and also made a Child Arrangements Order in respect of contact. The father re-established contact with the child shortly after his second birthday. Contact is going well and the proceedings are continuing in respect of contact arrangements.
This was a very interesting case in a fairly new area of law. There have been recent high profile cases which exposed the administrative incompetence of some Fertility Clinics. The case of Z Fertility Clinic in 2013, brought to the attention of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) the shortcomings of clinic Z. Following this the HFEA required all 109 Fertility Clinics to audit their legal parenthood records. A staggering 46 % of Clinics discovered anomalies in their legal parenthood consent forms. In September 2014 the HFEA wrote to all Clinics and advised them to seek legal advice if necessary and to also inform clients and their partners of the anomalies. All Fertility Clinics should therefore have been tightening up their administrative practices and assisting parents where there were errors with parenthood forms. The case law clearly states that whatever the administrative mistakes of Fertility Clinics with parenthood forms, the Court can rectify them and make Declarations of Parentage .
This case was the first to deal with an application for a Declaration of Parentage in the context of a dispute about contact and where there was clear opposition from the biological parent to the Declaration of Parentage being made. Unfortunately, the father in this case was very much let down by the Fertility Clinic. There is no doubt that the father would have re-established contact with his child months sooner if there had there been proper disclosure of documents in a timely fashion. The Judge was very critical of the Clinic. She found it “alarming and shocking” that there was a further case of this nature before the courts where there was “such striking ineptitude” from an organisation which is subject to statutory regulation and statutory monitoring by the HFEA. Clearly the case was not brought to light by the Clinic in their Legal Parenthood Audit and an investigation of this failing is to take place at the instigation of the Chief Inspector of the HFEA.
Not surprisingly, the Clinic did not oppose an order to pay all of the father’s legal costs in respect of his Declaration of Parentage application.
Read the full judgement by clicking here http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2015/3601.html
If you need help or advice with any family matter, please contact us to see if we can assist you.