Surrey County Council was granted permission to withdraw care proceedings by Mrs Justice Theis in a highly critical recent judgement.
Re E concerned a baby girl, called E in case reports, who was born with a range of complex health problems, which left her dependent on a ventilator and feeding tube. Doctors doubted that she would survive. The girl had heart surgery at the age of just ten days and spent the first 11 months of her life in hospital. Her parents received training in how to look after her and she was eventually allowed to go home with them.
The parents coped with her demanding care regime and their daughter appeared to be doing well. Then social workers developed began to have concerns about the parents. Social workers felt the couple were ‘challenging professional advice’, not maintaining proper boundaries, and trying to manipulate the medical staff, the Telegraph reports.
Worries were also expressed that the couple had fabricated aspects of her daughter’s health problems and the situation came to a head earlier this year earlier this year when social workers decided the couple might have cut ventilator tubes. As a result, social workers went to the couple’s home the same day, accompanied by uniformed police offers, and took their girl away.
Eventually, after a number of months, the council launched care proceedings, and a lengthy fact-finding hearing began. On the ninth day of the hearing, after evidence from 22 witnesses, Surrey County Council applied for permission to withdraw the care proceedings, saying they would not be able to meet the required minimum criteria for a care order.
Lady Justice Theis granted permission, but made forthright criticisms of the council’s behaviour. It has not properly investigated the evidence reviewed it in a balanced way, she said. There was a lack of effective leadership.
Evidence of damage to the ventilator tubes was “wholly improbable” and it would be impossible to make any findings without “without a huge degree of speculation.”
The judge as also highly critical of the decision to remove the couple’s daughter from their care.
“The peremptory removal of the girl from her parents’ care was achieved through an unfair process whereby the local authority held all the cards and the parents had no choice but to ‘agree’ in circumstances where they, in reality, had no choice.”
The parents were not given access to legal advice.
The judge concluded:
“Regrettably, the evidence points to a feeding frenzy of misrepresented and incomplete information that, adopting the terminology used against the parents, escalated out of control.”
After the girl’s removal, the couple asked for information about the care she was receiving, but, according to the judge, “the parents were regarded as a negative influence in relation to E’s care.”
Mrs Justice Theis praised the parents for their “enormous fortitude” and devotion to their daughter.