RSS Feed

“The father is to have no contact while the investigation is ongoing”

 

This is an interesting case, decided by Recorder Baker.  It was a private law case, which had considerable Local Authority involvement.  Many of the issues may seem familiar to practitioners, but the Recorder has grabbed the facts and issues and put them together in a very pleasing and digestible way.  And produced some useful guidance for other similar cases.

 

Re V (A child) 2016

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWFC/HCJ/2016/58.html

 

The facts are painfully familiar.  [Not how ALL cases go, by any stretch of the imagination, but we’ve all seen ones pretty much like this before.]

Man and woman meet each other. Love each other very much. When a man and a woman love each other very much they have a special cuddle, and lo a baby is born. Man and woman fall out of love.  Man and woman stop living together.  Quarrels ensue. Woman makes allegation about man. Man’s contact with child stops.

Here the allegation was that the man had been ‘massaging’ the child, who was about six.  Eueeww, creepy, you’re all thinking. Massaging a child. Creepy.

Well not so much when you know that the child has a medical condition that requires massage as a treatment and the dad is a physician. Not quite so creepy.

 

Let’s make it very plain at the start that the Judge in this case did not find that the father had done ANYTHING wrong to the child. Nor did he find that the mother had made up the allegations or been malicious or deliberate in any way.  It is just a series of events that got out of control, and a series of failings from professionals to look at the evidence for the mother’s suspicions and tell her frankly and plainly that there was nothing in them.  As a result of which, a father lost contact with his son for 42 weeks.

 

 

  • On a day in January 2016 the mother and V were at home with a family friend who was visiting. The family friend heard V make some comments about the time he lived with his father including comments about massages that he and his father had given each other. The family friend, who asserts experience in child protection matters, spoke to the mother on the telephone after her visit and informed the mother that she was going to make enquiries with respect to “intervention” with V on the basis that she was concerned by what she had heard. On the same day she telephoned the child’s school and told them about her concerns.
  • The school initiated safeguarding procedures and 6 days later V was seen in school by the Investigating Police Officer and a Social Worker. Prior to speaking to V they spoke to V’s school teacher. Amongst other things the teacher told them the school did not have any particular concern about V, that they had witnessed a good relationship between V and his father and that they had observed him to look forward to his father picking him up from school. The school were aware that V was awaiting a corrective medical procedure and that they were aware that V’s father, a medical professional, did massage V in connection with this condition. They confirmed that V had made no allegations of sexually inappropriate behaviour to them.
  • When the Investigating Police Officer and the Social Worker spoke to V, he made no allegations against his father and told them that there were no bad things about living with his dad or mum. When asked if his father ever did anything that makes him feel confused, upset or angry, he said that his father did not.
  • The Social Worker and the Investigating Police Officer communicated the contents of their conversation with V. It is recorded that the mother was not happy and was asking about stopping “contact” between V and his father. V was due to return to live with his father in the next few days. At that time it is recorded that she was advised that she would “struggle” to justify preventing V seeing his father and would be in breach of the extant court order. It is recorded that the mother was advised that she should not question V further.
  • The following day the mother attended at the local police station with a relative. She was initially spoken to by a police officer who was staffing the front desk. That police officer made a record of her attendance and sent a note to the Investigating Police Officer relating the encounter. It records that the mother was asking V to tell the police officer what he had told her. It records that the mother was asking V leading questions to elicit answers from V. She was asked to return later in the day when the Investigating Police Officer (who had attended the school the day before) would be on duty.
  • When the relative, mother and V returned to the police station the same day the Investigating Police Officer spoke to them. The Investigating Police Officer’s note records that during discussions with the mother, she reported that she had been undertaking research on the internet about how to speak to a child and that she had been asking V questions about what his dad had done. It is noted that it appeared to the Investigating Police Officer that the mother had been asking leading questions of V but when this was raised with the mother the relative became angry and aggressive and was asked to leave.
  • V was then video interviewed. I will return to the contents of that interview below.
  • After the interview the Investigating Police Officer noted that the mother “was keen to contact her solicitor and appeared to be checking that [V] had stated everything he needed to”. Thereafter the Investigating Police Officer advised the mother that the matter would be passed to a different police station for further investigation.
  • The transcript of the video interview of V makes for interesting reading. It can be asserted that he makes a number of allegations about his father massaging him, possibly involving the child and the father’s private parts. However, in a letter from a Detective Inspector written to the father’s solicitors 6 months later the contents of the interview are described thus:

 

“[V] did provide an account on video interview, and it was noted by officers that he did present in a very different manner compared to the previous [the school visit]. His account changed numerous times and he failed to make any clear or concise disclosures.”

 

  • That brief description is accurate and encapsulates the fact that the interview of V, even taking into account his age, is muddled and inconsistent. It does not provide a strong foundation for assertions of sexually inappropriate behaviour by the father. In the end it was the only evidence that could possibly have been taken as any evidence of inappropriate behaviour by the father.
  • On the same day (i.e. the day that the mother attended the police station in the morning and those events summarised at paragraphs 13 and 14 above occurred) the mother applied to court for a prohibited steps order preventing the father from removing V from her care. That application was made without notice to the father and was granted.

 

Despite there being not a grain of truth in the allegations, and pretty much every professional who looked at the evidence reaching that conclusion, it still took 43 weeks for this father, who had been having shared care of this child, to have any contact with his son again.

 

Here is the bit that is troubling, yet still sadly familiar

 

  • At some time after Day 6 and before the completion of the section 47 investigation the local authority had presented the mother with a written agreement. That was not in the Court Bundle so when I invited the local authority to attend the final hearing I also asked them to bring a copy of the written agreement. It is undated so it is only possible to estimate when it was signed by the mother. It asks the mother to ensure that:

 

“[The Father] is to have no contact with [V] whilst the investigation is ongoing.”

 

The Judge notes that of course the mother placed reliance on that written agreement – even if I WANTED to allow contact, I can’t, because the social workers have made me sign a written agreement not to allow any contact.

 

Even after both the Local Authority AND the police had closed their case, nobody tore up that Written Agreement, so it was being relied upon by mother months after any investigation was done and dusted. There being no evidence whatsoever of abuse, of course the investigation was going to fizzle out. Nobody took steps to revoke it though.  (And cynically, one might say that its existence rather suited the mother)

 

 

  • The decision to have an Initial Child Protection Case Conference having been rescinded, the local authority continued a ‘Child and Families Single Continuous Assessment’ as it is referred to in the document. The use of the word ‘continuous’ is ironic in the circumstances, because it turned out to be anything but. The assessment document itself makes it difficult to determine when it actually concluded, however I suspect it was within 3 ½ weeks of the initial phone call to the school. The decision to close the case was reviewed and ratified by a social worker manager one month after its’ conclusion.
  • The assessment recounts a number of things. It repeats the account of V’s video interview in the same terms as identified at paragraph 25 above. It notes however that when V is seen by the social worker 2 ½ weeks after his video interview, he again expresses no concern about being in the care of either parent. It records some of the things I have related above that might have at least alerted the writer or the manager to the possibility that this was not simply a case of child sexual abuse and that there were other risk factors to consider. However, it recommends no further action is taken by the local authority. When that decision is ratified by the Social Work Manager it is recorded in the following terms:

 

“I agree with the social workers (sic) recommendations to close this case… From the information collated during the assessment process, it is considered that the likelihood of significant harm posed to [V] is considerably reduced given that [the mother] has obtained a Prohibited Steps Order as well as agreed via a working agreement to ensure that he does not maintain contact with his father… if [the mother] were to breach this agreement such would undoubtedly increase the risk posed to [V] and, in turn, impact upon his developmental needs.”

 

  • It is difficult to read that paragraph as anything other than a conclusion that (i) in the view of the local authority V had been sexually abused by his father and (ii) that if he were to have contact with his father he would be at risk.

 

The Judge is quite right – of course you can’t read that as being anything other than a professional assessment that this child was safe because mum had agreed to stop contact and would be at risk if contact resumed.  Which would be a solid assessment IF it were based on an analysis that was supported by the actual evidence in the case. But it wasn’t.

 

 

  • The local authority did not become involved with V again until the Court made a section 37 direction, some 7 months later. That section 37 report, which was completed by a social worker who had not previously been involved, concluded that there was little or no evidence to substantiate any allegations of sexual abuse. The writer also observed that there was considerable evidence of a hardening of V’s views against the father, contrary to the situation that existed when he was living with the father and mother jointly and indeed contrary to the situation when his relationship with his father had only been interrupted for a few weeks. The writer concludes that V has suffered significant harm but that harm emanates from the acrimonious dispute between the parents rather than any form of direct sexual or physical abuse. The analysis of the factual matrix is compelling and thorough. Whilst neither I nor the parties entirely accepted all of the recommendations made within the report, that does not detract from the value of the work undertaken. It is right that I acknowledge that the author was employed by the same local authority that this judgment criticises.

 

The Judge goes on to discuss the role of Local Authorities in private law proceedings.  And it is right that when I receive notification that I myself am dragged (as an LA lawyer) into private law proceedings my reaction is much like THIS

 

Why God, why? Why have you forsaken me?

Why God, why? Why have you forsaken me?

 

 

  • I have every sympathy for and understand only too well the limited resources available to local authorities. Some local authorities, in my experience, display considerable reluctance to become involved in private law disputes and it is possible that there is an instinctive wish to withdraw from meaningful involvement as soon as possible, believing that private law disputes will ultimately be resolved by the courts. Local authorities do, after all, have many children whose welfare they are charged with protecting. However, local authorities have statutory duties and the way in which those duties are carried out have significant and lasting ramifications even if they do not become directly involved in any court proceedings that follow.

 

The Judge then goes on to give some very careful, thoughtful, measured and helpful guidance for Local Authorities in this situation, and decries the approach of “Allegation against dad >  get mum to stop contact > so no risk = close the case”  without a proper consideration of the allegation.

 

 

  • In any dispute between two parents where an allegation of abuse of any nature is made, instigated or supported by one parent against the other it is, in my view, incumbent upon a local authority receiving a referral to have in mind all the possible risks that may be inherent in any such allegation.
  • There is of course the risk that the allegation, whatever its nature, is true. There is the risk that that the allegation is not true. There are also the risks that the allegation is in some way mistaken, mistakenly encouraged or deliberately fabricated.
  • There are of course very serious welfare consequences for a child if allegations of, for example, sexual abuse are true. However, there are also serious welfare consequences if the allegations are not true. Those consequences include the possible temporary or permanent cessation of a relationship between a child and a parent. They include the inculcation of false events within a child’s memory and belief system. They include one parent portraying a negative and inaccurate view of another parent, with possible long term consequential psychological damage to a child who is led to believe that part of his or her genetic make-up is in some way ‘bad’ or unworthy.
  • It strikes me that in circumstances where the backdrop is a dispute between parents, the words of Baroness Hale in Re B [2008] UKHL 35 at [29] should be at the forefront not only of the Court’s mind but also of any investigative authority:

 

“…there are specific risks to which the court must be alive. Allegations of abuse are not being made by a neutral and expert Local Authority which has nothing to gain by making them, but by a parent who is seeking to gain an advantage in the battle against the other parent. This does not mean that they are false but it does increase the risk of misinterpretation, exaggeration or downright fabrication.”

 

  • It is notable that Baroness Hale refers to the local authority as being “neutral and expert”. In my view and with respect, in this context it seems to me that ‘neutral and expert’ implies a professional detachment that is alive to all the risks and weighs all the evidence in a balanced way bearing in mind all the reasonable possibilities. It does not imply an abandonment of a precautionary approach to child protection but acknowledges that ‘child protection’ encompasses protection for children from mistaken and false allegations as well as those that may be true.
  • It also occurs to me that where local authorities act in a way that purports to restrict the relationship between a parent and a child, under pain of legal action (as in this case, condensed into the written agreement) they must bear in mind that they may be interfering as a public body in a relationship that has, for want of a better term, special status. That ‘special status’ is reflected in the following observations about this case, which I doubt are exhaustive:

 

a. This father had parental responsibility for V;

b. This father had a court order that ensured that V lived with him and the mother;

c. This father had an ongoing relationship with his son about which there was ample evidence of a positive nature;

d. V had an Article 8 right to family life with his father that should only be interfered with if justified and proportionate; and

e. The father had an Article 8 right to family life with his son that should only be interfered with if justified and proportionate.

 

  • When interfering with such powerful imperatives it, in my view, behoves the local authority to record the situation carefully and accurately, formulating an assessment of the risks on all the evidence reasonably available, even if that assessment still concludes that for the time being the child should not see the accused parent. Simply to say ‘the child will not see the alleged perpetrating parent and is therefore safe’ and thereafter close the case, is an abrogation of the responsibility placed on local authorities by Parliament.
  • Failure to assess the circumstances properly has far reaching effects, even if the local authority do not themselves initiate protective court proceedings. In this case alone there are two obvious examples. First, when a private law case comes before the court Cafcass complete a ‘Safeguarding’ letter, a process that involves a Family Court Reporter quite literally telephoning the local authority to find out if they have had any involvement with the child or their family. Someone at the local authority looks on the computer and relates the contents of the information contained therein. The conclusions and nuance of that information informs the contents of the Safeguarding Letter which then informs the judge at a First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment. Decisions taken at the early stages of a case are of vital importance and can determine the direction of travel for the court process. Re-visiting the conclusion of the local authority assessment set out at paragraphs 33 and 34 above, it is not difficult to imagine the message that would be conveyed to the court by such a conclusion. Neither is it difficult to imagine the different approach that might have been taken by a court had that conclusion recorded a more balanced examination of the risks in this case.
  • Secondly, I have already alluded to the possible effect of the Written Agreement entered into between the mother and the local authority (paragraph 31). Again it is not difficult to imagine how a court, bereft of the complete picture, would approach a situation where it is informed that the local authority have told the mother that she must not allow the child to see his father. The impact was doubtless magnified by the lack of an end or review date in the agreement, allowing it to be said quite accurately that the agreement apparently still applied.
  • In addition, an approach that lacks balance and objectivity allows a parent who is more than willing to believe, subjectively and possibly inappropriately, that the other parent has sexually abused their child, to invest in that belief. It prevents them coming to terms with the possibility that the other parent may not have sexually abused their child. It reinforces both parents’ negative belief about the other parent which in turn is likely to impact adversely upon the child. Ultimately it increases the difficulty of putting the situation right and allows parents to get ‘stuck’ in a conflict that could have been defused much earlier.

 

You know that bit in figure skating competitions where bouquets of flowers get thrown onto the ice?  The extract above is deserving of similar treatment. It is important, fair and easy to follow.  If someone had given this passage to me and said “Which Judge wrote that?”  I’d have said unhesitatingly Mr Justice Peter Jackson. This Recorder is one to watch.

 

If you work in a social work team, particularly a duty team or one that does section 7 or 37 investigations, please share this judgment. If you represent parents, print it out and put a big post it note on it that says  “Helpful stuff”

 

Don't skate over them!

Don’t skate over them!

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

About suesspiciousminds

Law geek, local authority care hack, fascinated by words and quirky information; deeply committed to cheesecake and beer.

25 responses

  1. Would it also not be true that the LA should not interfere with a Private Law Order without the consent of the court unless there are public law court proceedings.

    It would be simple for someone to apply to suspend the order pending LA outcome and that way the court is properly supervising.

    Or are Private Law orders not worth the paper they are written on? They can be safely ignored by anyone seems common!

    Where is the best interests of the child in ignoring a court order?

  2. This is child abuse – or perhaps to put a closer definition on it administrative child abuse. I live in hope (sometimes a forlorn hope), that culturally this form of behaviour will become as unacceptable as any other form of child abuse.

  3. This reminds me so much of a case where I was asked to provide an ISW report and where the very senior and much praised judge was, in my opinion, prejudiced against the father from the outset. The case involved both the Irish and U.K. jurisdictions, and the Irish court had made sensible orders, given the acrimony of the mother to the father. I was not allowed to meet the child, in retrospect I should have turned down the assignment, but I thought having been praised in other cases that I could do a good assessment of the best interests of this child even though I was not allowed in the order to se the child with his dad (my preference) or on his own, respect of my assessment.

    I get upset still, not at the Judges dismissal of my report and nasty comments about me, but because the child – a boy – has been deprived of not only living with, but good staying contact with his father. The father was unable to pay the cost of an appeal given the money he had already spent, and his parents in India having ‘maxed’ their credit cards.

    For the information of your readers who may want to respond, I am a female social worker of some age.

    • PS
      Apologies, although the case has very many similarities to the one to which I referred, of course the outcome was very different. In the above case the judgment was thought through and the decision was balanced and correct. What I was’ possibly badly, trying to say was that not every case is decided with the evidence weighed carefully so that a decision can be made in the best short, medium and long term interests of the child.
      Diane Jacksin

  4. Neil Webb-Johnson

    This is the sort of case that exemplifies the utter lack of abilities of local authorities and their social workers to appreciate the simplest of facts; instead they conjure up all and every sort of possible perversion and then force the facts to fit their pre judged belief as to what they think has occured and then seek to portray that to a court as being both factual and correct.  I have recently come across a case where an NHS Trust initiated an Adult Safeguarding Enquiry based on what they were told by a police officer had supposedly occurred that is a son supposedly shouting at his mother.  However it took the NHS Trust nearly 12 months to tell the son that was what was being alleged; the son was then able to show that the police officer had made a statement about the  visit in which the police officer had made no mention of the 60 year old son having shouted at his 80 year old mother; the NHS Trust then told the son that they had in fact concluded the adult safeguarding enquiry nearly 12 months earlier and during that time the son in particular had been in fear of further false allegations being made by the police officer as the son was able to show that the police officer had an axe to grind against the son

  5. Shirley Buckley

    May I bring to your attention Mr Justice Charles’ judgment 9October 2007 FD06P01608. I was not in Court. “And it is ordered that…….SB is forbidden from discouraging MB from going to the Wincroke Unit or from co-operating in his transfer and his assessment and treatment there: SB is forbidden from criticising to MB, thestaff, facilities, care and/or treatment at the Wincroke Unit: SB is forbidden from telling MB that any other placement is superior to Wincroke Unit in any respect: SB is forbidden from discouraging MB from a
    taking up any offer of care or treatment made to him by the health and social care professionals responsible for MB at the Wincroke Unit: SB be forbiddenfrom having contact with MB while he resides at the WincrokeUnit save as agreed in writing with the healthcare professionals at the Wincroke Unit. THE ORDERS IN PARAGRAPHS 6 7 8 9 10 AND 11 HEREOF SHALL CONTINUE UNTIL FURTHER ORDER OF THE COURT 9AND SHALL HAVE A PENAL NOTICE ATTACHED TO THEM.” Charles also wrote a personal letter to Martin which I never saw. You must realize the enormity of this.

  6. Reblogged this on | truthaholics and commented:
    “It is notable that Baroness Hale refers to the local authority as being “neutral and expert”. In my view and with respect, in this context it seems to me that ‘neutral and expert’ implies a professional detachment that is alive to all the risks and weighs all the evidence in a balanced way bearing in mind all the reasonable possibilities. It does not imply an abandonment of a precautionary approach to child protection but acknowledges that ‘child protection’ encompasses protection for children from mistaken and false allegations as well as those that may be true.
    It also occurs to me that where local authorities act in a way that purports to restrict the relationship between a parent and a child, under pain of legal action (as in this case, condensed into the written agreement) they must bear in mind that they may be interfering as a public body in a relationship that has, for want of a better term, special status. That ‘special status’ is reflected in the following observations about this case, which I doubt are exhaustive:

    a. This father had parental responsibility for V;

    b. This father had a court order that ensured that V lived with him and the mother;

    c. This father had an ongoing relationship with his son about which there was ample evidence of a positive nature;

    d. V had an Article 8 right to family life with his father that should only be interfered with if justified and proportionate; and

    e. The father had an Article 8 right to family life with his son that should only be interfered with if justified and proportionate.”

  7. Stopping all contact when neither parent has been convicted of a crime against children must ALWAYS be wrong .Contact by phone or email must never be forbidden in such circumstances no matter what the allegations are.After all baby p’s mother saw her surviving children in jail and not many could be worse than her !
    Stopping even indirect contact between law abiding parent and child must I repeat be a crime in itself ;
    Jailing parents and grandparent for sending birthday cards,waving at their children or grandchildren in the street,,or for accidental meetings is barbaric and the judges who impose such drastic punishments should be locked up themselves !

  8. Although this is a private law case the social work role in it focused on child protection. The narrow focus arose because children’s services have a statutory duty to assess risk and protect children (although they should also consider the child’s welfare). The judge has produced shocking evidence of a deeply flawed social work assessment and problems caused by social work intervention which the family may have difficulty recovering from. I would have thought that such a serious failure in carrying out statutory duties amounts to ‘non-feasance in public office’ and appropriate action should be taken.

    For years I have been saying that the competence with which a sec 47 is handled will crucially influence the effectiveness of subsequent work. Obviously, there is an urgent need to improve social work practice in this area. I wrote to the Chief Social Worker about this when she took up her post in 2013 but had no response: http://radical.org.uk/barefoot/chiefsocialworker.htm

    • Anyone working as the agent of the state should have a proactive focus on human rights, so that they do not violate anyone’s human rights. The LA have a duty to protect, consider and to not violate the human rights of all in everything they do.

  9. And, as always in these private law cases, heaven forfend that the slightest consideration should have been given by the social workers to a 180° turnaround to then investigate what clearly amounts to emotional abuse on the part of the mother.

    btw Andrew, that grubby little comment about a father massaging his son being creepy was wholly repugnant and unworthy of your column.

    • Dear Mike

      Not my intention, but reading it back, I don’t think that it is sufficiently clear that the air-quotes were meant to distinguish between legitimate massage (as was happening in this case) and unsavoury fondling being disguised as ‘massage’ hence the air quotes. It was clear in my mind, but I hadn’t communicated that sufficiently. So I apologise and thank you for drawing it to my attention. I will endeavour to take more care in future.

      (The Judge here specifically did not find any emotional abuse on the mother’s part, though of course that was a possibility that he says should also have been considered in the social work assessment of the various explanations)

      • Dear Andrew,

        Thank you for the clarification & apology – we dads get touchy about having our motives impuned.

        The Judge only didn’t make any finding of emotional abuse on the part of the mother because nobody was, by that stage, asking him to.

        The Father,

        – having experienced the enormous power which vindictive women are routinely given by Social Services and the “Family” Courts,
        – having experienced the contempt and suspicion with which fathers are treated,
        – having had his name and professional reputation besmirched at his son’s school and in his community because the mother would doubtless have shared her information far and wide,

        and now, having been given hope of restoring his relationship with his son, and having been subjected to robust advice from Counsel about the benefits of a bird in the hand, was probably anxious to just get the heck out of Dodge.

        That doesn’t alter the fact that the facts were such as would justify Social Services exercising their statutory powers to safeguard the child by investigating the possibility of emotional harm caused by the mother and the family “friend”, and probably an criminal investigation by the police as to whether there was a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

        The real question that one has ask after all this, is “Is the child safe in the future?”. I would suggest not. If the mother is, as seems likely, emotionally abusive then who will protect him in the future? The father, just like thousands of other dads, has now experienced at first-hand, just how fragile his relationship with his son is, and will probably tolerate a very high degree of disruption and emotional abuse of him and his son because the alternative is equally appalling!

        It may reduce “Family” Court listing times but is it in the best interests of our children?

      • *impugned 🙂

  10. I carry no torch for adults who are proven/on balance shown to have harmed a child but I’ve challenged similar practice in more than one LA ie producing ‘agreements’ and also ‘plans’ that include such stipulations either where they shouldn’t, or where poor wording and exploiting parents’ fear mean no challenge. In addition to your observations re ‘proceedings’ I have more than once seen initial child protection case conferences produce a CP Plan that includes a statement ‘x will not have contact with the child pending the outcome of investigation/assessment’. This includes cases where ‘X’ has PR and – whilst still under investigation/being assessed – has not been found to have caused any harm, others where the Police have NFAd but the LA has neither started PLO process or finished ‘assessments’ and variations on these themes. My question is always ‘ what legal authority do you/the conference have to stipulate no contact?’. No-one’s ever cited the legal authority (maybe you can?).

    • If both parents have PR, I don’t think that one can unilaterally agree to prevent the other from having contact (they can obviously BOTH agree to do this for a finite period of time whilst investigations take place)

      I think the more accurate form of wording is “I, the mother/father of X agree that in order to prevent the Local Authority issuing care proceedings on my children, I will not let the children see their father/mother unless there is a Court order permitting contact”

      (And in the light of this case, even that might be iffy, unless there’s been an investigation that gives what Americans call ‘probable cause’ but we would phrase as ‘reasonable grounds to believe’ that the child actually is at risk during contact)

      The legal authority is simply the LA saying to the resident parent, this is what will happen if the contact DOES take place (go to Court, seek an Interim Care Order – and then of course, the Court will need to see and the parents can challenge the evidence that leads to that ‘reasonable grounds to believe’)

      Where there is a Court order in place about contact, I think the legally accurate position is that an application should be made to vary the order – that’s quite difficult in (a) Post LASPO times and (b) the lag between making an application to Court and getting a hearing.

    • To answer your question … I think the Children Act 2004 is to blame for this because it is poorly written and imprecise. This Act introduced a new approach to social work practice – one with less attention on the necessary forensic requirements of the child protection role and more on professionals using their skills to ‘safeguard and promote the welfare’ of children. It gave agencies a duty to co-operate to improve the well-being of children and this included their emotional well-being. This has apparently had the effect of permitting a more interventionist approach by children’s services and a reluctance to recognise the limits of their legal powers as set out in the 1989 Act. It means that very subjective concerns, which often raise professional anxieties, are being used to justify compulsory social work intervention. For example, it is taken for granted that it is always necessary to immediately stop a child having contact with a father suspected of abuse. This seems to be ‘custom and practice’ in many authorities now.

      This case shows that we need a more balanced approach when children’s services respond to child protection concerns and a willingness to accept that controls should not be put in place unless they are really necessary.

  11. ashamedtobebritish

    What can I say other than …

    … and that folks is how easy it is to lose your child. Especially to those who say stupid shit like ‘they can’t do that’ and ‘there must be more to it than that’

    No … it’s really that easy

  12. The mother obviously jumped onto this psychologically projected prejudice from the initial social worker with the same enthusiasm that MP’s fill out their expenses claims…

    Would the social worker have projected the same prejudice if she had over heard that a mother was massaging her child or a child ?

    Does a women massaging a child sound creepy ?

    Women go under the radar, while all men are seen as perverts.

    Hope this father and child get a lawyer that is not indolent and gives the LA a good bashing.

  13. Pingback: Transparency Project: Family Court Reporting Watch – Weekly Round-Up | Inforrm's Blog

  14. It seems that the mother successfully appealed to ECHR. Judgment here: http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/rus#{“documentcollectionid2”:[“GRANDCHAMBER”,”CHAMBER”],”itemid”:[“001-169522”]}

    • I think the link I posted above might be wrong as it does not take the reader to the correct page, only to the page with lists cases.

      I’ll try to find a better link

    • But the final hearing was only on 24 November 2016 and the boy is now subject to an order where he lives equally with both parents. It’s hard to believe that the ECHR has already granted the mother an appeal …?

%d bloggers like this: