The Family Court has awarded a mother and daughter £40,000 during an ongoing care dispute.
In Medway Council v M & T (By Her Children’s Guardian), Judge Lazarus awarded the record-breaking sum because she ruled that the seven year-old had been “unlawfully removed” from her mother’s care.
Social workers placed the girl in foster care after her mother suffered “an extremely serious episode of depression” and was subsequently detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act. The judge noted that such a detention “does not constitute and should never be treated as an abandonment by a parent of their child”. However, the mother was not informed about her daughter’s whereabouts until she was released from hospital six months later.
In response, the mother and daughter made a claim for damages against Medway Council. They alleged that the local authority’s actions had violated their rights to a family life and a fair trial, under the European Convention on Human Rights.
Judge Lazarus ruled that the daughter had been removed “without lawful authority” and that the mother’s “poor mental health does not justify” the council’s failure to inform her of what had happened. She added that this was “an egregious breach” of the family’s rights even if it had been in good faith.
Additionally, the judge criticised the council for the delays in the ongoing care proceedings to determine where the daughter should live permanently. At the time of her judgment, the case had spanned two years and three months, which made it “the longest currently reported” case of its kind.
The “just and appropriate award in this case” was £20,000 each for the mother and the daughter, Judge Lazarus concluded.
To read the full judgment, click here.