Two young children were moved 200 miles from London to Wirral after their dad launched a "crusade" against social services.
The children, aged two and four, were initially allowed to live with their mother with limited, supervised contact with their dad, but both parents refused to follow court orders, leading to the kids being taken into care.
After years of battles with local authorities and the courts, the mum had a change of heart in July this year and was allowed a further chance to gain custody of her children - a decision appealed by Wirral Borough Council.
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According to a Court of Appeal judgment, the dad, formerly a teacher, had a history of aggression and "uses intimidation as a tool to subvert people to his way".
In 2016, a year before the first child was born, he was banned from the classroom indefinitely for assaulting a student and in June 2018, the family came to the attention of social services when a neighbour reported an altercation between the parents.
The court heard social workers visited the home and were subjected to "hostility and verbal aggression" from the dad, who refused to allow them entry.
Things deteriorated from there with the dad arrested for harassing the neighbour and then bailed to live away from the family home, before being arrested again for breaching his bail terms.
Lord Justice Peter Jackson, presiding over the case, wrote: "The mother also withdrew all co-operation and the whereabouts of the family became unknown.
"This set the pattern for three years of unremitting oppositional defiance by the parents towards the authorities."
Care proceedings were initiated for the first child in October 2018, and the child was placed into interim foster care, before being returned to the mum in a series of foster placements.
The court heard the second child was born in July 2019, and both children were placed with the mum on the basis that she lived with her parents.
Justice Jackson wrote: "That arrangement continued until about October 2020.
"During this time the parents continued to wage what the Judge described as a 'crusade' against the authorities, but the children appeared to be well cared-for.
"However, the situation remained unstable, with the parents refusing to disclose the father's whereabouts.
"In January 2020, the father was convicted of one or more offences relating to the then allocated social worker, and in September 2020, he was arrested after storming the Family Court in an attempt to confront the Judge.
"Staff had to barricade themselves in rooms and the father was eventually incapacitated by police with PAVA spray. The father was charged with assaulting an emergency worker."
The court heard a final hearing in those care proceedings took place in October 2020, where the dad's behaviour was described by the Judge as the "worst that he had ever seen" and he was excluded from the hearing.
That hearing got back on track the following day and the family were given yet another chance, with the Family Court judge agreeing for the children to remain with their mum and the dad to have supervised contact.
He ordered the dad not to attend at any property where the mother and children were living or where the children were at school.
Justice Jackson wrote: "In response, the parents, who were acting in person, stated that they would ensure that the father had unsupervised contact without involving the local authority and the father stated that he would breach every order made by the court."
Following those hearings, the mum and children moved from the maternal grandparents' property and refused to tell social services in London where they were.
They were eventually located after the court issued a recovery order, and social workers found the children and mum had been living with the dad, although they appeared to be "well cared for".
The children were moved back into foster care, but social workers recorded the dad "intimating in a menacing way" that he knew where they were living.
Justice Jackson said as a result, the children had to move in February this year and again in March, ending up in Wirral around 200 miles away from their mum's home in London.
He said the original Family Court judge was close to making a placement order, permanently removing the children from their parents' care, but was convinced not to after an emotional change of heart from the mum.
The original judge wrote at the time: "At the conclusion of her evidence the mother, for the first time in my experience of dealing with her, became emotional other than simply through venting frustration or raging against my decisions.
"There was no longer fire in her voice but now a real sadness and genuine upset."
The original judge said he believed the mum when she said she would abide by anything the court decided, whether or not she agreed, and would do anything to be allowed to remain with her children.
Wirral Council appealed on the basis that the judge's decision was "irrational" in light of the evidence and that the order was "not a workable proposition for the children's futures."
Justice Jackson concluded: "Cases where parents decide to take on the system are always difficult...
"This was just such a case, and the Judge was in my view to be permitted the widest latitude in deciding how to approach this very profound decision.
"He saw a change in the crucial matter of the mother's willingness to offer some level of formal co-operation and he was entitled to factor that into his analysis.
"To that point, his decision may have been a brave one, but it was not irrational in the sense that would entitle an appeal court to interfere."
However Justice Jackson ruled the Family Court judge should have set that position as a "starting point" and asked for detailed proposals on how any arrangement to return the children to their mum would work.
The case was returned to the Family Court for further hearings.
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