An appeal in the case of S-B (Children) has been listed before a 7 judge panel for two days on 25 and 26 November 2009.  The Court of Appeal judgment was handed down as recently as 30 June 2009.  The Supreme Court apparently gave permission to appeal on 27 October 2009 and the case was listed for an urgent hearing.  It has been placed on the “Case Details” section of the Court’s website today – although this does not identify the decision appealed against or the precise date on which permission was given. 

The case deals with important issues concerning the burden of proof in child abuse cases in relation to the issue as to whether the judge should have exculpated the mother when he found that there was a 40% likelihood she was responsible for the child’s injuries.  It is noted in Family Law Week here.  We will post a case preview in the week before the hearing.

We have previously commented on the trend towards increased panel sizes in the Supreme Court as compared to the House of Lords.  Two hearings before 9 judge panels are listed for this term.  There has already been one hearing before a 7 judge panel this term (A v HM Treasury).

In contrast, there was only one 7 judge panel in the House of Lords in the 2008-2009 session.  This was in the important criminal evidence case of R v Horncastle which was heard by Lord Phillips, Baroness Hale, Lord Brown, Lord Mance, Lord Neuberger, Lord Judge and Lord Kerr on the 7-9 July 2009.  It was an appeal from a decision of a 5 judge court of appeal (Thomas  and Hughes LJJ, Penry-Davey, Irwin  and Wyn Williams JJ) heard as recently as 22 May 2009.  Between 2002 and 2009 there were only four other hearings before 7 judge panels, the most recent being Kay v Lambeth [2006] UKHL 10 and A v Home Secretary (No.2) [2005] UKHL 71.