W (A Child) v Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council and Others: CA 11 Oct 2013

The mother, RW, had made serious but false allegations of sexual and physical abuse that she said had been perpetrated upon her by others. In care proceedings in the county court her child, W, was held to be at risk of significant emotional harm, and a care order made. His findings and decision were not accepted by either party.
Held: The court considered the evidential burden falling on a court facing such assessments.
Ryder LJ said: ‘Although it is conventional to speak of facts having to be proved on the balance of probabilities by the party who makes the allegation, proceedings under the 1989 Act are quasi-inquisitorial (quasi-inquisitorial in the classic sense that the court does not issue the process of its own motion). The judge has to decide whether sufficient facts exist to satisfy the threshold (the jurisdictional facts) whether or not the local authority or any other party agree. Furthermore, the basis upon which the threshold is satisfied is a matter for the judge, not the parties. To that end, if the judge directs that an issue be settled for determination, then absent an appeal, the issue will be tried whatever any party may think about that.

Sir Nicholas Wall P, McCombe, Ryder LJJ
[2013] EWCA Civ 1227, [2013] WLR(D) 382
Bailii, WLRD
Children Act 1989
England and Wales


Updated: 21 November 2021; Ref: scu.516438