Sheffield City Council v M & Ors – Family Law Week case summary

02 February 2022

Poole J sets out his reasons for sanctioning the appointment of a Special Advocate for the Respondent father to a Forced Marriage Protection Order application, in which the Applicant sought to withhold certain information from the Respondents.

The Local Authority applied for Forced Marriage Protection Orders for two girls, A and B, who were aged 16 and 13. The girls lived with their Father in England, their Mother lived in Bangladesh. The family were brought to the attention of the Local Authority when the Father purchased one-way tickets to Bangladesh for himself and the girls, and informed A's school that he would be taking the children for a short trip to visit family. After South Yorkshire Police made enquiries, the Local Authority applied without notice to the parents for a FMPO in respect of each child.

The court granted both FMPOs, prohibited the parents from removing the children from the jurisdiction, and ordered that the police retain the children's passports.

In making its application, the Local Authority had relied upon information which was provided to the court and to the Children's Guardian, but not disclosed to the parents, "the closed material". The Father applied for disclosure of the closed material, discharge of the FMPOs and discharge of the passport orders. The Mother did not engage with the proceedings.

The case raises the question of how a respondent's Article 6 rights might be protected upon an application to withhold information from them. All parties agreed that, unusually, a Special Advocate should be appointed to represent the Father's interests in determining the issue of disclosure and then, if necessary, representing the Father at a final hearing.

Read the full summary on Family Law Week.