Edinburgh social workers guilty of contempt after they defy court order

Children|Family Law|News|January 10th 2014

Two social workers have been found guilty of contempt of court after they ignored a court ruling that an estranged mother should be allowed greater access to her children.

The social workers, employed by Edinburgh City Council, defied a ruling that the mother should be allowed to see them for two hours a week.

The children in question had been taken into care in February 2012 and had lived with their current foster carers since April of the same year. The mother, called ‘AT’ in case reports, was allowed regular contact – initially one hour per week, then two. Later, contact was reduced again – to just two hours per month.

In her judgement, Sheriff Kathrine EC Mackie noted:

“The children were said to present more challenging behaviour following contact and to require reassurance. Weekly contact was said to be traumatising the children and a reduction of contact was in their best interests.”

AT appealed successfully and her right to two hours supervised contact per week was restored. Sheriff Mackie said the decision to reduce contact had not been justified on the evidence.

However, one of the two social workers, called ‘CM’ in case reports, subsequently insisted that contact arrangements would remain unchanged, saying the sheriff had “not  done her job properly and had not put the children’s interests first”. AT was “distressed” by “CM’s apparent intransigence.”

Regular contact between the children and their mother was not restored until a later children’s hearing.

CM’s colleague GL, meanwhile, had relied on statements by her colleague and made no attempts to reverse or change the decision. Both therefore had “interfered with the administration of justice”, the sheriff ruled.

The sheriff declared:

“They [CM and GL] have shown disrespect for and disregard for the decision of this court and interfered with the administration of justice. They have affronted the authority of this court, frustrated the rights of AT and deprived the children of contact with her from 15th July 2013, with the exception of one occasion on 5th August 2013, until contact was reinstated following the decision of the children’s hearing on 22nd August 2013. Accordingly, CM and GL are guilty of contempt of court.”

She added:

“A finding of contempt of court will be of considerable importance for persons in the positions of CM and GL. In these circumstances I do not find it necessary to be addressed in mitigation and no further penalty will be imposed.”

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  1. vob re says:

    This is typical behavior of many social workers it just does not reach the media. Children are left suffering at the hands of these workers. When will the lessons be learnt that children coming from dysfunctional families can still have parents who love the children these children have felt that love which will never be replaced by material practicalities. Local Authorities and Foster parents should encourage contact.

  2. Luke says:

    It’s extraordinary that social workers would disregard a court order – but then maybe that’s the point and the problem – actually it ISN’T “extraordinary”.

    Some of these social workers are just out of control.

  3. Andrew says:

    Arrogant, arrogant, arrogant. And used to having their own way. Well done that mother, well done that sheriff, and is it not frightening that if that mother were in England now she would probably not get legal aid?

    • Marilyn Stowe says:

      Dear Andrew
      Legal aid to clarify is still available for public law proceedings. Also for mediation and where there has been demonstrable domestic abuse. Not much comfort, but when the Local authority is involved in public law cases, such as care cases, legal aid is still there.

  4. Andrew says:

    I wonder whether in practice the LAA would grant legal aid for an application such as this or would they regard it as “satellite litigation” or not of benefit to the applicant?

    One way or the other I doubt whether any English court will ever pass a similar judgment although I do not doubt for a moment that some social workers this side of the Border would do what these two did north of it if they took it upon themselves to decide that the judge who decided how much contact to allow was wrong.

  5. Terry says:

    What a pity this conviction was overturned by the court of appeal. It is astonishing that the sheriff involved was criticised by the three senior judges for acting outside the law, by bringing the charges, cross examining and judging, and failing to recognise that the arrogant social workers had been attempting to safeguard the kids. I see no reason why the social workers involved could not have turned a blind eye to the obvious distress and damage the access contacts were having on the kids. I am really pleased that you are standing up against the rights of kids.

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