Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) v GBL

CourtYouth Court (Singapore)
JudgeEugene Tay
Judgment Date23 February 2017
Neutral Citation[2017] SGYC 1
Citation[2017] SGYC 1
Docket NumberYouth Court Appeal, MA 001/2017/01, Case No CPO 06/2006
Plaintiff CounselMr Zheng (Attorney-General's Chambers)
Defendant CounselMdm B (in person)
District Judge Eugene Tay: Introduction

This appeal is brought by the natural mother, Mdm B (“the Mother”) of the child, GBL (“the Child”) against the following orders made by me on 12 January 2017 in respect of CPO 06/2006 (“the Case”) under the relevant provisions of the Children and Young Persons Act, Cap. 38 (“CYPA”): The following orders passed on 8 April 2016 (“8 April 2016 Orders”)1 to stand: [The Mother] being the parent to [the Child] shall execute a bond of $1,000.00 to exercise proper care and guardianship of [the Child] for a period of 3 years under section 49(1)(a) of the CYPA; [The Child] to be placed under a Fit Person, namely the Ministry’s registered foster mother, Mdm C and foster father, Mr D, (collectively, “the Foster Parents”) for a period of 3 years under section 49(1)(b) of the CYPA; [The Mother] and any significant others’ contacts with [the Child] are subjected to the approval and review of the Approved Welfare Officer under section 49(2) of the CYPA; and [The Mother] to continue her psychiatric treatment at XXX and to be compliant with the medication and treatment plan and attend any parenting programme/counselling as recommended by the Approved Welfare Officer for a period of 36 months under section 51(1) of the CYPA, and [the Mother] shall execute a bond of $1,000.00 to comply with the said order. The following additional orders passed on 17 November 2016 (“Additional Orders”)2 to be extended up to the entire duration of the orders passed on 8 April 2016 (i.e. till 7 April 2019) under section 49(2) of the CYPA: [The Mother], Mdm E and any other significant person to refrain from going to the vicinity of [the Foster Parents’] home; [The Mother] to refrain from going to the vicinity of [the Child’s] school, XXX, and any visits to be subjected to the review and approval of the Approved Welfare Officer; and [The Mother] to remove postings in any way related to proceedings before this court (including and not limited to the information on [the Child] and [Foster Parents]) in social media or any public platform and to refrain from creating any such new postings.

(collectively, “my Orders”):

I now set out the grounds for my Orders.

Background

The Case was first brought to the (then) Juvenile Court (now Youth Court) by Child Protective Service (“CPS”), (then) Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (now Ministry of Social and Family Development (“MSF”)) on 24 February 2006 under section 49 of the CYPA for care and protection orders for the Child (a boy born on 8 February 2006) against the Mother. From 24 February 2006 to-date, successive care and protection orders under the CYPA have been granted in relation to the Child. I will not exhaustively set out all the care and protection orders granted from 24 February 2006 to-date, save where necessary for the purpose of this appeal. The Case was last reviewed in Court on 8 April 2016, where the Court had passed the 8 April 2016 Orders, as stated at [1(1)] above.

On or about 25 October 2016, CPS wrote in to Court requesting a review, in view of recent developments in the Case involving the Mother’s allegations against the Foster Parents, MSF, the child protection officer (“CPO”) (which escalated to the Mother reportedly filing a Magistrate’s Complaint against CPS and the Foster Parents) and the Mother’s volatile and disruptive emotions and behaviour destabilising the Child’s current placement3. CPS also sought a review to have additional orders to restrict the Mother from going to the vicinity of the Foster Parents’ home and the Child’s school, and the Mother to remove postings relating to the Child and the Foster Parents in social media to prevent further disruption and safety concerns in the Child’s current care4. The Court fixed a review date on 4 November 2016.

On 4 November 2016, CPS submitted its review report (“the Review Report”) to the Court, with the recommendations that the 8 April 2016 Orders remain in force, as well as for additional orders to safeguard the Child’s interest5 (collectively, “CPS’s Recommendation”). The Mother did not agree to CPS’s Recommendation, and indicated she wished to contest the Case. The Court then directed that the redacted Review Report be served on the Mother within one week, and adjourned the Case to 17 November 2016 for both parties to engage counsel. The Court also passed interim orders6 (effective till 17 November 2016) prohibiting the Mother, maternal grandmother (Mdm D) and any other significant person from going to the vicinity of the Foster Parents’ home and the Mother from going to the vicinity of the Child’s school, and the Mother to remove postings relating to the Child and the Foster Parents in social media and refrain from creating any new postings (“4 November 2016 Interim Orders”).

On 17 November 2016, after the Mother indicated she would be contesting the Case in person, the Court directed parties to exchange affidavits within four weeks, and adjourned the matter to 22 December 2016 to ensure that the said direction was complied with. CPS, through State Counsel, then sought the Additional Orders (in particular, the Mother to remove postings in any way relating to the proceedings before the Court (including and not limited to information on the Child and the Foster Parents) in social media and to refrain from creating any such new postings) to safeguard the interests of the Child and the integrity of the present proceedings. The reason provided by State Counsel was that after the 4 November 2016 Interim Orders were passed, there were subsequent postings by the Mother on social media on the conduct of the proceedings, which were in breach of the said Orders and undermined the nature of the in camera proceedings. The Mother objected to the Additional Orders, though she admitted she created (only) one new posting. Her basis for objection was that she wanted to let her friends know “what (was) going on”, and that sometimes she needed their help and advice as she did not have family support and was not able to obtain legal aid. After hearing parties, the Court then passed the Additional Orders (effective till 22 December 2016).

On 22 December 2016, the Court was informed that parties had exchanged affidavits and had served the same on the Court. Neither party requested the Court to give directions for reply affidavits. CPS, through State Counsel, sought a date for the contested hearing as well as extension of the Additional Orders till the date of the hearing. The Mother, however, sought an adjournment to obtain a further medical report, on the grounds that the existing medical report had become invalid after six months. State Counsel objected, and informed that he had no instructions that the medical report was invalid or had expired after six months. The Court did not grant the adjournment sought by the Mother, and fixed the date for the contested hearing on 12 January 2017. The Court also extended the Additional Orders till 12 January 2017.

To summarise, at the time of the contested hearing on 12 January 2017, the Child was under the following care and protection orders7: 8 April 2016 Orders (as stated at [1(1)] above); and Additional Orders (first passed on 17 November 2016) (as stated at [1(2)] above).

At this point, I will state that the 8 April 2016 Orders were passed with the Mother’s consent. She also did not appeal against the 8 April 2016 Orders or the Additional Orders at the time the said Orders were passed.

I heard the contested hearing on 12 January 2017. CPS was represented by State Counsel, while the Mother represented herself. After hearing submissions from both parties, I passed the Orders stated at [1] above.

The Child Protector’s case

CPS submitted that there are two issues raised in the Case8: Whether there is any change in the circumstances that the Child is in need of care and protection under section 4(c) and/or 4(d) of the CYPA (“Issue 1”); and Whether there is any change in the circumstances with the Child’s placement with the Foster Parents, which has an impact on the best interests and welfare of the Child (“Issue 2”).

CPS’s stated position is as follows9:- On Issue 1, the Child is still in need of care and protection under section 4(c) and/or 4(d) of the CYPA; and On Issue 2, it is in the Child’s best interest and welfare that he continues to be placed with the Foster Parents.

On Issue 1, CPS pointed out that the Mother had not expressly challenged CPS’s position that the Child is still in need of care and protection under section 4(c) and/or 4(d) of the CYPA in her affidavit dated 15 December 2016 (“the Mother’s Affidavit”). There was no evidence in the Mother’s Affidavit that challenged her long-term mental health condition, history of emotional volatility, depression, aggression and suicidal behaviour, or to show that the circumstances have changed such that the Child was no longer in need of care and protection under the CYPA10.

CPS stated that the Mother’s request was for a change in the Child’s placement with the current Foster Parents11. CPS also stated that in the Mother’s Affidavit, she had agreed with certain key facts on Issue 1, including her agreement that the Court was satisfied that the Child was in need of care and protection under the CYPA and the Child had been placed under successive care and protection orders from 24 February 2006, and that she had a history of depression and obsessive compulsive traits and had not been taking her prescribed medication12.

CPS submitted that on Issue 1, there was no dispute...

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