New Judgment: In the matter of S (a Child)  UKSC 20
25 Wednesday Mar 2015
On appeal from:  EWCA Civ 135
The Supreme Court unanimously allowed the appeal by the local authority regarding a full care order made in respect of the respondent’s daughter and set aside the costs order made in the Court of Appeal. The father of a young girl successfully appealed against a placement order obtained by a local authority for her adoption without her father’s consent. The Court of Appeal ordered the local authority to pay the father’s costs. It raised the issues of whether the approach to ordering costs to be paid by local authorities in care proceedings set out in Re T (Children)  UKSC 36 extends to the costs of appeals from orders made in such proceedings.
In giving the only judgment, Lady Hale stated that In Re T upheld the general practice of not awarding costs against a party in children’s proceedings, in the absence of reprehensible behaviour or an unreasonable stance. Lady Hale reasoned that only winner should be the child and no one should be deterred by the risk of having to pay the other side’s costs from playing their part in helping the court achieve the right solution. She also reasoned In Re T did not rule out the possibility of other circumstances in which an award of costs in care proceedings might be appropriate provided that a local authority was not put in a worse or better position than the private parties.
She stated that in the present case it was not suggested that the local authority had behaved in any way reprehensibly toward the young girl or her father. None of the exceptions to the general approach to awards of costs in children cases applied and therefore the appeal was allowed.