Financial & Legal News

Damages Awarded In Childcare Proceedings, Stacy Fox Comments

  • Posted on

Damages of £10,000 each have been awarded for the first time to a couple whose children were unlawfully removed by a local authority.  The money was awarded under the Human Rights Act in childcare proceedings for a breach to their right to a family life.

In Williams & Anon v London Borough of Hackney, the husband and wife took the local authority to court for wrongly placing their eight children in foster care.

According to the judgment one of the children told police when he was arrested for shoplifting that he had been beaten by his father with a belt.

Police visited the home and declared it was not in a fit state for the children to live in, and they were removed.

Hackney council said that the parents had given their consent under section 20 of the Children Act 1989 for their children to be kept away from them for longer than the 72 hours allowed under the police order.

But the judge said there was no evidence the parents were told to seek legal advice and they thought they would never see their children again unless they signed the agreement.

He added that although the initial separation was justified, it was unlawful for the authority to keep the children beyond 72 hours.

Commenting on the case, Childcare Solicitor, Stacy Fox, said:  “The section 20 procedure is used for 100’s of children across England and Wales, often appropriately, and these children are then rehabilitated back to their parents or placed with family members.  

“Occasionally though the procedure is abused.  If the children have been removed pending court proceedings, because there is a risk to the children of significant harm, then the proceedings should be issued forthwith, otherwise very often decisions regarding the care of the children are being made without proper consultation with the parents, and without the children having a say at all, as until the court proceedings are issued there is no appointed guardian or solicitor.  The parents also do not have legal representation during this time,” she added.

“This case in particular shows the inappropriate use of section 20 accommodation.  It may have been correct for the police to use their powers of protection, but if the concerns were addressed straight away, it was clearly wrong to then allow the continued separation of the children from their parents and family.

“I would advise any parent faced with the decision regarding section 20 accommodation to contact me to discuss whether this is the correct choice for them and their children before agreeing to this.”

For advice on childcare issues and court proceedings contact stacy.fox@pearsonlegal.co.uk or call 0161 785 3500

 

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

This blog was posted some time ago and its contents may now be out of date. For the latest legal position relating to these issues, get in touch with the author - or make an enquiry now.

    How can we help?

    Please fill in the form and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.