Transparency Project: Family Court Reporting Watch – Weekly Round-Up No. 19

26 03 2017

The purpose of this update is to correct, clarify and comment on media reports of family court cases, to explain and comment on published Judgments of family cases and to highlight other transparency news.

Media Reports of Family Courts Case and Family Justice Issues

  • The Mirror with Girl aged 11 set to become Britain’s youngest motherThe report says the local authority is seeking strict reporting restrictions in the family division of the High Court. Technically a decision in the High Court on reporting restrictions falls for publication under the Transparency Guidance (Schedule1.6 of paragraph 17) which specifies that any application for an order involving a restraint on publication of information relating to the proceedings should normally be published (subject to a written judgment or order for a transcript). We will comment further if we see a published judgment.
  • More reports on the ombudsman ruling against Essex County Council for removing a teenage girl without notice from her Aunt and Uncle foster carers

We featured the Daily Mail report in our last Round Up. Last week the teenager’s family were on the Victoria Derbyshire show providing an interesting case study in how families struggle to access legal rights in situations like this. (Their niece was removed suddenly from school with a few hours notice, by Essex council who had a care order for her and kept away from them for several months). They found their MP and Fosterline helpful and the local authority complaints procedure ineffective. The Ombudsman eventually assisted but only long after the child was back at home. They don’t seem to have received advice on an emergency application to the family court to prevent or overturn the removal under the Human Rights Act. This is hardly surprising given they had to respond in a crisis with a few hours notice, were unlikely to qualify for means tested free legal advice nor afford the costs of consulting solicitors to find out whether there was anything they could do. On the face of it there wasn’t. They had no legal decision making rights (parental responsibility) for their niece who was subject to a care order and the local authority had the statutory legal authority to remove the child. They needed specialist legal advice quickly to have known that the local authority were nevertheless acting unlawfully,(in the way they removed her and because the risks didn’t warrant immediate removal rather than proper assessment and a review) and what they could do about it.

The guidance social workers should follow is buried deep in case law. Effective systems of legal training, supervision and communication with Independent Reviewing Officers would in reality be required to be in place for social workers to implement such guidance confidently on the ground.

See also Community Care with Council criticised after social worker removed girl without telling carers

The only other report we have seen is that at Social Work Tutor blog which notes that he remains a registered social worker on the register maintained by the social worker regulator, the Health and Care Professions Council. At the time of writing  that seems to remain the case and may raise questions about the efficacy of systems to ensure timely notification to the HCPC and deregistration in urgent cases. In this particular case risk is otherwise managed by the remand in custody for sentence (with imprisonment indicated).

And Beware Ye the comments section highlighting comments on Adoption.  I’m sorry it’s not like the moves at Misadventures of an adoptive dad

Feature image courtesy of Flickr with thanks to Lauri Heikkinen

This post originally appeared on the Transparency Project blog and is reproduced with permission and thanks.

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26 03 2017
daveyone1

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