In what is now one of the first ever cases where damages were awarded under the Human Rights Act in childcare proceedings, two parents have been awarded £10,000 each after their eight children were unlawfully taken away from them.
A local authority unlawfully removed the couple’s children for longer than was legally allowed therefore breaching their right to a family life.
In the case of Williams & Anon v London Borough of Hackney, a husband and wife sued the local authority for taking their children away and placing them in foster care for nearly two months, leaving the parents extremely distressed and causing an adverse effect on their children.
The eight children were taken away from their parents after one of the children was arrested on suspicion of historic shoplifting charges dating back to eight years. According to statements, the child told police that his father had been beating him with a belt.
After police visited the home, they declared it was not in a fit state for children to live in and removed them from the property.
According to Hackney council in London, the parents had given their consent for their children to be kept away from them for longer than the 72 hours permitted under a police order. A judge ruled that they had done so whilst under duress, fearing that if they did not sign the agreement that they would never see their children again.
As reported in the Law Society Gazette Deputy High Court judge Sir Robert Francis QC said: ‘If ever there was a case illustrating the challenges that face children, parents, public authorities and the court when concerns are raised about the safety and welfare of the children it is this.’
Judge Francis said: ‘A swift consideration of the welfare issues concluded that if some simple improvements were made to their home, the children could return home. Yet it was two months before the children returned to their parents after experiencing a variety of foster placements, some of which were of dubious quality.’
The judge ruled that there was no evidence the parents were told to seek legal advice and that no valid consent was given, yet although the initial separation was justified it was unlawful for the authorities to keep the children, one of which still at breastfeeding age, longer than 72 hours and place them in care.
After two months their children were returned to the parents and each parent was awarded £10,000 in compensation.
This case of wrongful and unlawful removal of children from their family shows just how distressing and difficult it can be for all involved and how easily a situation can spiral out of control if parents do not seek the appropriate legal help.
If you are facing court proceedings or have been told that your children may be taken away from you, it’s vital that you seek legal advice immediately. Our expert child care proceedings solicitors can advise on all matters and defend you and your family’s interests in court.
If social services have taken your child into care, or have threatened to do so, it’s important that you are represented by someone who understands the legal process. Call an expert children law solicitor now on 01616 966 229 for immediate advice.