Local authority granted reporting restriction order

Children|November 19th 2015

A council in Kent has been granted a reporting restrictions order by the High Court.

Medway Council v L and Another concerned a single father of a now 13 year-old boy referred to as ‘J’. His mother’s whereabouts are “unknown”.

J first came to the attention of social services at the age of 10 in 2012 after being found at home alone after the fire brigade were called. Investigators discovered that the father had also left the boy alone on a number of previous occasions, placing him at risk of emotional harm. J was taken into care.

The father later took a parenting course but the boy was returned to his care, on condition that the local authority continue to supervise the family. However, the relationship between the father and the authority later deteriorated dramatically and he launched a “relentless” campaign, blaming them for the family’s problems.

This included talking to BBC reporters and a visit to the European Parliament in Brussels. But J had begun to display behavioural problems and the relationship between father and son became strained.

In her judgement, Mrs Justice Theis noted that the father had called the police one day in April:

“The father advised the previous day J had trashed the house with a hammer and shot at his father with pellets from an air gun. When the police arrived J was noted to be hiding under a piano and was emotional when the police spoke to him. J reported to them the demands made on him by the father regarding extra homework, attending Russian schooling were too much. The officers noted when J tried to talk to the father he shouted him down. The officers sought to mediate; they noted the unkempt state of the home, and a hole in a glass pane.”

The father, however, continued to insist that the local authority was entirely to blame for his difficulties with J. The Police notified the local authority of their concerns and J was taken into temporary care under an emergency protection order.

Her Honour Judge Hammerton noted J’s angry outbursts, unhappiness at the father’s campaign, and the poor conditions in the family home. She believed the boy was at significant risk due to his father’s behaviour. J was placed in formal, long-term care.

The father refused to accept the court’s findings and the local authority returned to court, arguing that the father’s continuing campaign would put his son at further risk of harm. They therefore applied for the reporting restriction order preventing media coverage of the case, as well as two further orders. These would prevent the father from disclosing any information about the care proceedings and from going to his son’s school.

The orders were granted. Mrs Justice Theis declared:

“Through his relentless campaign (mainly against the local authority) I am satisfied that, very sadly, the father has lost sight of his son’s needs. As a result of the father’s failure to recognise that his continued behaviour risks further harm to his son, it is necessary for the court to intervene in order to protect his son from further risk of harm.”

The judgement is available in full here.

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