Appeal against an order made in COP proceedings where the judge who made the order had also been the judge in related family proceedings. Appeal allowed and the order was set aside.
The Patient is M, her parents-in-law are A and B (the PGPs), and her 12 year old son is X. M's husband and two other children died in a car accident in which she was seriously injured and now no longer has capacity. Care proceedings took place and HHJ Roberts made interim orders that, pending further order, M should live separately from the PGPs and X. HHJ Roberts was also the judge in COP proceedings where orders provided for M to remain in her own home, separate from the PGPs and X. The PGPs appealed the COP decision on the basis that there was apparent bias, in that the judge stated her intention in the exchange between the judge and the legal representatives, in the absence of the parties, to decide the application consistent with decisions made in different proceedings (i.e. the family proceedings).
The court allowed the appeal. The language used by the judge could only reasonably be interpreted as meaning there was a real possibility she had formed a concluded view. What she said stepped over the line between robust case management and premature adjudication. Her comments were inconsistent with an open mind on the issue the hearing was listed to determine.
Read the full text of the judgment on Bailii
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