Mother allowed only four hours every year to visit three children who are in State care, court hears
A mother, whose three children are in State care, has been allowed only four hours every year in which to visit them, the High Court has heard.
The time spent with them would be curtailed to short periods at Christmas, Easter and on their birthdays, Mr Justice Richard Humphreys was told.
The judge has granted the mother, who cannot be identified for legal purposes, permission to challenge the Child and Family Agency's decision to limit her access.
The children, who range in age from four to 10 years, were placed in long term state care by the District Court in October 2014. She was afforded four hours supervised access to each child per year.
The woman can now challenge the care orders and a decision of the Child and Family Agency which refused to grant her more access to her children. The Agency said further access was contrary to the wishes of her children.
The woman represented herself in court and was opposed by the Agency. Judge Humphreys said she had made out an arguable case on several grounds to challenge the Agency’s refusal.
One of the grounds was the Agency’s reliance on the alleged views of very young children as the sole basis for the decision to refuse additional access.
The judge said it was clearly arguable that it was not proper for the Agency to put forward the views of young children as a basis to restrict the mother's access to four hours per year. He said the Agency "sought to retreat from this as a basis for the refusal to grant additional access" by telling the court its decision was based on the opinions of social workers as to the best interests of the children.
Judge Humphreys said the provision of reasons by public bodies must be carried out with integrity. He said the court had delegated to the Agency the function of determining access.
He the woman should not be precluded from her challenge because she had sought, and had previously been refused permission in a similar application, by another judge of the High Court.
The action will return before the courts in the coming months.