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Local authority ‘acted unlawfully’ in taking child from mother

A local authority had acted unlawfully when it ignored a care order and removed a child from his mother.

That was the decision of the Family Court in a case involving Gloucestershire County Council.

The care order had been made in November 2016 based on a care plan which recommended that the child, who was less than two years old, should be placed with the mother.

The plan specified that the child was not to be removed from the mother without 14 days’ notice. On 1 June 2017, the child was removed from the mother, without notice, and placed with foster carers.

The local authority considered that her care of the child had deteriorated. It also believed that, in recommending placement with the mother, the social workers previously involved had failed to comply with the appropriate regulations.

Consequently, it believed that the care order should never have been made based on a return to the mother.

By the time the matter came before the court, a new social services leadership team had been put in place, which accepted that the removal was unjustified and that the child should be returned to the mother immediately.

The court hearing still went ahead to identity what had gone wrong.

The Family Court said that the local authority had removed the child with a degree of subterfuge and immediacy that was disproportionate and plainly wrong. It had had not taken adequate account of the fact that the child was still being breastfed and it had not considered arrangements that might have kept the mother and child together if further assessment was to take place.

If the authority doubted the legality of its own recommendations and care plan, it should have either taken the steps required by the regulations or returned the case to court. It should not have removed the child in contravention of the care plan and without proper notice to the parents.

The judge said that directions on the mother’s application to discharge the care order would be given at a future date.

Please contact us about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of family law.