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.”
“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.”