A Family Court Judge has ordered Worcestershire County Council to pay a ten year-old boy £5,000 in damages.
The council removed the child from his mother’s care in early 2011, although the latest judgment did not elaborate on the reasons for this decision. The man who is believed to be the boy’s father refused to take a DNA test to confirm his paternity and did not have parental responsibility for him.
Although the Family Court authorised the local authority to find a new adoptive home for the boy, they had no success. As a result of the child’s “very serious behavioural difficulties”, they were unable to find a family willing and able to adopt him.
The next logical step, His Honour Judge Rundell explained, would have been for the council to place the boy in long term foster care. They should also have applied to revoke the placement order. Doing so would have given the boy’s mother “the opportunity, if she was so minded, to seek contact with him”. However, this did not happen for three years.
When the application to revoke the previous order was finally brought to the Family Court, the boy’s court-appointed guardian did not oppose it. A guardian is appointed in family law cases to represent the best interests of a child in court. While he did not object to the local authority’s application, he did argue that they should pay the child damages for the excessive delay.
The guardian said that Worcestershire County Council had breached the boy’s Article 6 and Article 8 rights under the European Convention of Human Rights, which cover the right to a fair legal hearing and the right to a family life.
At a Worcester court, Judge Rundell said that the local authority had “failed for three years to take the obvious step” to revoke the order. Additionally, the mother had given birth to two more children since her son had been taken into care. In the three years he was in care, time he did not see her or his half-siblings. He had therefore missed the chance to “develop a fulfilling sibling relationship with at least one of them”, the judge added.
The delay had been a breach of the boy’s rights, Judge Rundell ruled, and he was indeed entitled to damages.
Read B (A Child) in full here.