Dear all GRANDPARENTS entering into SGO’s, please read this...
As paternal grandparents, we’ve had our 6 year old grandson for over 3 years under SGO.
His mother last year, applied to the courts to discharge the SGO but failed, however was told by magistrates to continue to improve her life and reapply.
We showed throughout the case how she hadn’t changed from the original order and that she’d told numerous lies to make herself look a better person than she is. A cafcass report was sought but never backed up with evidence. For instance, she claims she works but no evidence was needed to back this up.
Although the discharge failed, the case continued to look at contact sessions and, regardless of her lies, she was granted 3 hours unsupervised contact from 3 hours supervised contact.
Up until the court case, we continued to grant her supervised contact, which we’d increased from 2 hours per month set in the original order, to 3 hours per week. It had to be supervised as she constantly lied to us about her situation and she wouldn’t produce a drug test (a requirement of the original order). When back in court last year (2018), the court also insisted on the drug test, something she always maintained we were being awkward about. However, the then brunet mother, bleached her hair blond and practically passed the test all but showing cannabis in the report. Bleaching hair can dramatically skew the results of a drug test, evidence of which was shown to the magistrate.
When we were granted SGO we were very naive to the situation and took the fact that we would have him until he was 18 as black and white. We’d read that the SGO could be discharged but the parent would have to show dramatic changes in their life and it also considers how dramatic it would be for the child to change his current lifestyle etc.
Throughout the first 12 months of the SGO, social services advised us that she wouldn’t be able to afford to take it back to court. We constantly questioned this, but they continued to advise us that she wouldn’t.
However, her application to discharge the SGO was free to her as she claims benefits and was a very simple process for her to do. When we received the application we were advised by the courts to seek legal advice and in doing so, we spent our life savings on the case.
She didn’t seek legal advice, just kept using our solicitor to get messages to and from the court and to us, which we ended up paying for!! Also, because she represented herself, the magistrates were extremely sympathetic and lenient towards her tears etc. We were also advised by legal that they couldn’t be too harsh on questioning her as it would look like ‘bullying’.
There is now animosity between parties and she will continue to fight for him back as advised by the magistrates. She keeps telling my daughters friends that we will never see him again if she gets him back. There’s gratitude for you!!
I am writing this to grandparents who are looking for information on SGO’s and to highlight flaws with SGO’s;
SGO’s: are not until the child is 18, they are in place until a parent convinces the courts/social services they’ve changed their lives.
On the back of my experience I want to campaign on this to change SGO’s to have specific reviews at various stages of the child’s life (e.g. 7 years & 12 years) to ensure no one who set out with the greatest intentions to save a child’s relationship with their parents and bring them up as best they can, has to be put under extreme stress and dragged through the courts like we have, whilst spending their life savings on legal fees.
The court setting, the bench and legal adviser made us feel like we were on trial and we’d committed a crime rather than viewing us as grandparents who kept this child safe. It made me wonder if this process is to give magistrates a role and a job rather than consider a fair case.
It’s also to highlight to grandparents whether to consider getting legal advice if the parents don’t have it as our experience shows it very much puts you on the back foot.
When discharging an SGO, it also states that it looks into the child’s welfare. We advised the court that:
The child is exceeding at school due to our input.
He attends loads of clubs such as beavers, swimming lessons, David Lloyd tennis club where he goes to fencing, tennis, multi sports etc.
He lives now and where he would live if with his mother
Worldwide holidays which would definitely stop.
He has private healthcare whilst living with us.
However it wasn’t shown how any of this was considered during the case in the final report.
If any grandparents have been through similar experiences, and wish to campaign, please advise.