Judge blasts social workers telling them they ‘are not above the law’ after they remove nine-year-old from family then keep him away without consent ~ TARA BRADY, Daily Mail.
- Judge Gareth Jones said social services were not above the law
- He suspected proper procedures were not followed in order to save money
- The mother won an injunction to have her son returned to her immediately
- Barrister David Abberton said social services had acted unlawfully
- Anglesey County Council claimed that it acted in good faith
- Judge requested the case was made public to push council to improve
A judge has blasted social workers who he said illegally withheld a nine-year-old boy from his mother.
Judge Gareth Jones said that social services were not above the law and that he suspected proper procedures were not followed in order to save money.
Now the mother – who won an injunction to have her son returned to her immediately – is seeking damages from Anglesey County Council in North Wales.
Her lawyer, Frances Jones, today confirmed the child had been returned to his mother immediately after the injunction was granted.
She said: ‘As the mother’s solicitor I am delighted to have played a part in bringing the child home.
‘We are now continuing with the claim for damages.’
The child was taken in as a temporary case while the mother received treatment in a psychiatric unit but was not returned to her for five months for which there was consent.
When she came out of treatment she withdrew consent and asked for her son back.
However social workers refused and put him in foster care.
But they did not make applications for a care order first – so rights were denied.
Their barrister David Abberton took the issue to court and said social services had acted unlawfully.
Judge Gareth Jones, sitting at the family division of the high court in Mold, agreed and asked for his judgement to be made public so that lessons could be learned.
The court heard how the child had been taken to hospital with pneumonia in March of last year and the mother had a short stay in a psychiatric ward.
On release from hospital the boy was placed in foster care and in April, when she was back home, the mother asked for her son back.
The judge said that once the mother indicated her consent for the child to be in care had been withdrawn, the local authority should have asked itself very carefully on what statutory basis it continued to place him with foster carers.
Mr Abberton argued there was simply no legal basis at all which breached their client’s human rights to a family life.
Under fire: The mother is seeking damages from Anglesey County Council in North Wales
Anglesey County Council claimed that it acted in good faith and said the placement was for the child’s welfare – but accepted that social workers had not followed the correct procedures.
The judge said that once the mother’s consent was withdrawn the authority should have gone to court to apply for an emergency protection order or an interim care order.
In the absence of any application to the court, the mother was entitled to remove the child from care at any time, he said.
The authority had acted unreasonably by failing to initiative such applications.
‘By failing to do so, they were essentially maintaining an unlawful position,’ he said.
The judge said that he was ‘extremely critical’ of the council’s conduct.
No one dealing with the child had asked themselves under what lawful authority the child was being placed in care.
Judge Gareth Jones
‘The social services department of Ynys Mon Council in that respect, it seems to me, were acting beyond the proper control of that local authority’s legal department,’ he said.
They had failed to take proper legal steps, its failure to apply for orders meant that there was no judicial over-sight, the child was deprived independent representation to look after his interests.
Judge Gareth Jones sad that he had previously voiced his concern about a health board case which involved Anglesey council.
‘I have a suspicion, and it is only a suspicion, that this local authority may have fallen into the temptation of withholding the commencement of public proceedings for reasons of economy. I hope very much that this is not a correct suspicion.
‘If that suspicion was well founded, that to my mind would be wholly unacceptable.’
The judge said that the authority needed to carry out an urgent review of its internal procedures and he said that key personnel in positions of authority in social services and the children’s services department needed to be fully informed by the legal department of the legal framework in which they operated.
‘Social services are not above the law and they, like everybody else, is subject to it,’ he declared.
The judge said that Anglesey Council needed to demonstrate to the public of Ynys Mon that it is ‘able and competent’ once again to administer its local authority function without outside intervention.
It had ‘failed abysmally’ in the present case to demonstrate to the public that it could discharge its functions in a proper manner.
He said he hoped very much that the lesson would be learned for future cases .
The judge said the matter should be made public because if the public at large and those in authority were not aware of it there was no prospect of improvement.
To conceal matters when they went badly wrong served no public purpose whatsoever.
‘I see no reason why the court should connive in concealment of important information in cases of this kind,’ he said.
An Isle of Anglesey County Council spokesperson said: ‘Due to ongoing legal considerations, we are not in a position to comment on this matter.’