Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) v GCC and GCD

CourtYouth Court (Singapore)
JudgeEugene Tay
Judgment Date17 October 2017
Neutral Citation[2017] SGYC 2
Citation[2017] SGYC 2
Docket NumberYouth Court Appeal, YA 002/2017/01, Case No. CPO 000127/2016
Plaintiff CounselMs Faith Boey, (Attorney-General's Chambers)
Defendant CounselMdm B (in person),Mr C (in person)
District Judge Eugene Tay: Introduction

This application (“the Application”) was brought by Child Protective Service (“CPS”), Ministry of Social and Family Development, Singapore (“MSF”) to this Court (i.e. the Youth Court) under section 49 of the Children and Young Persons Act, Cap. 38 (“CYPA”) for care and protection orders for two (2) children, GCC (a girl, aged 13) and GCD (a girl, aged 10) (collectively, “the Children”) against the natural parents, Mdm B (“the Mother”) and Mr (“the Father”) (collectively, “the Parents”).

I will state up front that at all material times, only the Mother contested the Application, while the Father did not.

On 11 September 2017, I heard the Application and made the following final orders (“Final Orders”) (paraphrased): The Children to be placed under the supervision of an approved welfare officer for a period of 12 months, under s49(1)(d) of the CYPA; The Parents are bonded $3,000.00 each for each child to exercise proper care and guardianship, under s49(1)(a) of the CYPA; The Children to reside with the Father, under s49(2) of the CYPA; The Children’s access with the Mother and/or significant others to be subjected to the approval and review of the approved welfare officer, under s49(2) of the CYPA; All parties concerned shall co-operate and work together with each other and the relevant professionals and agencies with the aim of facilitating and restoring the Children’s contacts and access with the Mother, under the supervision of the approved welfare officer, under s49(2) of the CYPA. No person shall unreasonably interfere with or hinder the carrying out of this clause or do any act that would compromise the safety, health and well-being of the Children, under s49(2) of the CYPA; The Children and the Parents are to undergo any psychiatric/psychological assessment/treatment and/or counselling programme as deemed necessary by the approved welfare officer, under s51(1) of the CYPA; and The Parents are bonded $3,000.00 each to comply, under s51(2) of the CYPA. Orders are to be reviewed in 6 months.

The Mother being dissatisfied with the Final Orders had appealed against my decision. For the record, the Father did not appeal.

I now set out the grounds for the Final Orders.

Background Referral to CPS

The Children were first referred to CPS in August 2014, following their allegations that they were ill-treated by the Mother. As CPS was not able to substantiate such allegations, no formal case was opened or further action taken1.

The Children were referred again to CPS on 6 December 2016, due to concerns over their psychological well-being. The Children were reported to be displaying post-traumatic stress symptoms, and had on 4 November 2016 been admitted to XXX by the Father after they had exhibited behaviours that were unmanageable, in that they had refused to leave the Father’s car to have overnight access with the Mother on 4 November 20162. CPS subsequently brought the Application to Court on 27 December 2016.

Proceedings in the Family Court

At this point, it would be necessary to provide a brief background of the proceedings in the Family Court between the Parents, in order to understand the circumstances and context surrounding the Application.

At the time the Application was brought to Court on 27 December 2016, the Parents were already divorced after divorce proceedings were commenced in the Family Court in December 20123. From the perusal of the Court’s records of proceedings, it was quite clear that the Parents’ divorce proceedings in the Family Court, including the ancillary matters and various applications involving custody, care and control and access to the Children, have been long drawn and acrimonious, with multiple applications filed by both the Parents for, inter alia, orders / variation of orders on custody, care and control and access. For the purpose of this judgment, it would suffice to provide only salient details of the more recent and relevant orders involving the Children made by the Family Court.

On 21 April 20154, District Judge Sowaran Singh (“DJ Singh”) passed orders5 on, inter alia, the ancillary matters (“DJ Singh’s April 2015 Orders”)6, including for the Parents to have joint custody of the Children, with no orders on care and control, access and maintenance (for the Children) until the Parents and the Children have undergone counselling at XXX in accordance with a Family Court order made by consent on 26 March 2015.

On 2 February 2016, following the Mother’s application7 for, inter alia, sole custody of the Children with supervised access to the Father, DJ Singh ordered, inter alia, that the Parents to have joint custody, with interim care and control to the Father, with access to the Mother to be carried out via phone calls (5.30pm to 6pm on Tuesday and Thursday, for 3 months) and thereafter by Skype (5.30pm to 6pm on Tuesday and Thursday, for a period of further 3 months), with the matter to be reviewed by the (Family) Court on 2 August 2016 (“DJ Singh’s February 2016 Orders”).

On 2 August 2016, when DJ Singh’s February 2016 Orders were reviewed, along with the Father’s further application relating to the Children’s documents and belongings8, DJ Singh made further orders relating to the Children, including orders on custody, care and control and access, the relevant orders of which are paraphrased and set out below: The parties to have joint custody of the Children, with care and control to the Defendant (the Father) and liberal access to the Plaintiff (the Mother) as follows: Skype access on every Tuesday and Thursday from 5.30pm to 6pm until the last day of October 2016. The Father shall ensure that the Children can be seen by the Mother and the Mother shall ensure that she can be seen by the Children during the Skype access. With effect from 4 November 2016, the parties to have joint custody and joint care and control of the Children. The Children shall stay with the Mother as follows: from 5pm every Friday until 9pm on Saturday (including overnight access). first half of the June and November/December school holidays (including overnight access). alternate public holidays commencing with Christmas Day 2016 from 10am to 7pm. […] the Father shall ensure that the Children are sent to the Mother’s residence for their stay with the Mother and the Mother shall ensure that they are returned to the Father’s residence at the end of their stay. the parties may vary the above stay arrangements by mutual agreement in writing. […] (“DJ Singh’s August 2016 Orders”)

On a related note, I would add that after the Application was brought on 27 December 2016, both the Parents subsequently filed separate summons applications under the divorce proceedings in the Family Court to (in effect) vary DJ Singh’s August 2016 Orders as well as seeking further orders in relation to the Children9. At the time of the writing of this judgment, both the aforesaid summons applications have yet to be heard and determined, pending the outcome of the Application.

Proceedings in the Youth Court

Save as follows, it would not be necessary for me to go into detail of the chronology of the current proceedings in the Youth Court (“Chronology of Proceedings”), as the said Chronology, including the interim care and protection orders and directions made by the Court, has been summarised and set out in Annex B of CPS’s Written Submissions.

After the Application was brought to the Court on 27 December 2016, the Court called for a social report to be prepared by CPS and presented to the Court on 24 March 2017. After all parties (through their appointed counsel or in person) had an opportunity to be heard, the Court also passed the following interim orders for the Children (“Interim Orders”) till 24 March 2017 (paraphrased): The Children to be placed under the supervision of an approved welfare officer until 24 March 2017, under s49(1)(d) of the CYPA; The Parents bonded $3,000.00 each for each Child to exercise proper care and guardianship, under s49(1)(a) of the CYPA; The Children to reside with the Father; under s49(2) of the CYPA; The Children’s access with the Mother and/or significant others to be subjected to the approval and review of the approved welfare officer, under s49(2) of the CYPA; The Children and the Parents are to undergo any psychiatric/psychological assessment/treatment and/or counselling programme as deemed necessary by the approved welfare officer, under s51(1) of the CYPA; and The Parents are bonded $3,000.00 each to comply, under s51(2) of the CYPA.

During the course of the proceedings, the Interim Orders were extended, as set out in the Chronology of Proceedings (referred to at [14] above). I should state that, apart from the present appeal against the Final Orders, there is no record of any appeal(s) filed by any party against the Interim Orders and/or the various extension(s) of the same or any other directions given by the Court.

I heard the contested hearing on 11 September 2017. CPS was represented by State Counsel, while the Parents separately represented themselves10. After hearing from all parties, I passed the Final Orders stated at [3] above.

The Child Protector’s case

CPS’s position is that the Children are in need of care and protection under sections 4(g) and 4(d)(i) of the CYPA, and that the following orders (“Orders Sought”)11 (paraphrased) are in the best interest and welfare of the Children: The Children to be placed under the supervision of an approved welfare officer for a period of 12 months, with a review period of 6 months, under s49(1)(d) of the CYPA, and the Children to reside with the Father; The Parents to be bonded $3,000.00 each for each child to exercise proper care and guardianship, under s49(1)(a) of the CYPA; The Children’s access with the Mother and/or significant others to be subjected to the approval and review of the...

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