baby feet

Council ordered to pay £12k to a couple for Social Services’ breach of their human rights

baby feetLeicester City Council has been forced by the High Court to pay out £12,000 in damages to a couple with learning difficulties for being too swift to take their baby into care.

Judge Clifford Bellamy, who sat as a Deputy High Court Judge in Re H (A child): breach of Convention Rights: Damages [2014] EWFC 38, found that the Local Authority breached both Article 6 and Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights which preserve every individual’s right to a fair trial and right to family life.

Within a fortnight of baby H’s birth in May 2013 the Council decided that the mother had deliberately concealed her pregnancy and that baby H was at risk of significant harm. The conclusion followed an investigation under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989.

Both of H’s parents have learning difficulties and are considered vulnerable. The father also has severe epilepsy. A social worker noted that neither parent appeared to understand the implications of the investigation and that their learning difficulties were obvious during the discussions.

Despite this, and apparently without the parents receiving any legal help, the Local Authority removed baby H “on an informal basis” when she was three weeks old and gave her to the daughter of the mother’s foster parents and her husband – Mr and Mrs B. The parents were very upset about losing their baby and were offered supervised contact, according to the judgment.

The judgment states there was no record of the parents having been provided with any explanation of their options or even any indication of how long the “informal” placement would last.

The Local Authority did not get round to issuing care proceedings till baby H was nearly a year old and was equally slow in arranging cognitive assessments for the parents.

Judge Bellamy said “these parents have suffered a loss of time with their daughter which was both unnecessarily lengthy and deeply distressing.”

He accused the local authority of poor practice and said “these are vulnerable learning disabled parents who had no one to speak up for them.” Each parent was awarded £6,000 in damages.

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