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Section s91(14) Orders

 August 2018 |  Stacey-Anne Bishop

I have recently been involved in a private law children case in which the Judge imposed a s91(14) order for a period of 3 years. So, what is a s91(14) order and what does this mean?

A s91(14) order is an Order made under section 91 (subsection 14) of the Children Act 1989. These orders provide a bar to further court applications being made by a party to proceedings without permission of the court. The Orders are also referred to as ‘barring orders’ and because of the draconian nature of the same, are difficult to obtain and rarely seen in practice.

Case law emphasises that the court’s power under s91(14) is to be used sparingly. However, orders may properly be made when the other party and the child(ren) are seen to be suffering from or are likely to suffer if such applications continue.

In deciding whether to make an order, the court has to carry out a balancing exercise between the welfare of the child(ren) and the right of unrestricted access of the litigant to the Court. There are established guidelines that the judge must consider before making such an order.

Why did the court make such an order in my case?

The proceedings had been going on for over 5 years and were described as extremely complex. The judge found that the children had been involved in hostile litigation following their parents’ separation.

Due to the complexity the children were separately represented in the proceedings by a guardian. The judge was of the view that unless the parent was restrained, they would continue with the approach of issuing repeated applications to the court, there having been no less than 27 interim hearings and over 40 separate applications made to the Court.

The application was supported by the children’s caseworker who was of the view that the parties and more importantly the children required respite from continuing and troubling litigation. The psychologist instructed to undertake a full family assessment highlighted her concern at the length of time the proceedings were continuing for, noting that this was the longest case she had been involved in, and was of the view that ongoing litigation would be acutely traumatic to the children.

Whilst recognising that the order sought was draconian, the judge determined that it was required due to the exceptional facts of the case and that the welfare of the children required that such an order be made.

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