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Use of Police Protection – a guide for social workers






This is intended to be a simple one page guide for social workers as to what to think about when Police Protection is being considered as a route of a child coming into care. It is not a substitute for legal advice on a particular case and the best thing to do is to contact legal for specific advice.


The police have powers to remove a child and place the child with the Local Authority, section 46 Police Protection in cases of emergency.


The Courts have clarified what ‘emergency’ does and does not mean in this context.


The starting point is this:-


The separation of a parent and child should usually be a decision for a Court. If it is possible to seek a Court hearing, that should be done.


The police should not be asked to use their section 46 powers to bypass the Court and the parent having a fair hearing about removal. Police protection should not be used because it is quicker, easier, less hassle, it is nearly the end of the working day.


If a decision is taken to remove a child under Police Protection rather than go to Court, there must be wholly exceptional reasons for this. Those involved would need to show not only that there was a need for separation, but that this need was that no reasonable steps could be taken to keep the child safe WHILST a Court hearing was arranged. The Local Authority have to try very hard to make alternative arrangements so that the decision can be made by the Court.


“there is an onerous burden upon a local authority to find alternative arrangements during the delay which would hold the balance of protection and which do not require separation.”


It is vital that full and detailed records of the decision-making process are kept, and that those involved set out clearly what efforts were made to obtain a Court hearing and why the risk could not be managed until that hearing.


Misuse of Police Protection to remove a child can result in unfairness and human rights breaches, and the Court may hold detailed enquiries as to why this has happened and may award compensation.



Also, there’s no “O” in Police Protection.   (okay, actually, there are two, but the use of  PPO  as shorthand for removal under Police Protection causes the death of tiny pixies every time it occurs. The “O” in PPO stands for Order, and the absolute thing to remember with Police Protection is that there IS no Order. The Court don’t sanction removal, a police officer does.  I know it is right next to EPO in the statute, and it just sort of feels right in the mouth to say EPO/PPO, but the O stands for Order.  So EPO is right, and Police Protection is right.  PPO is wrong.  Please avoid it!


About suesspiciousminds

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

8 responses

  1. We had a case some years ago where parents took their children from contact as they “un-consented” to the s20. Some hours later the bizzies, (scouse for constables) came to the family home and forced entry and made the children leave with them. The children were safe with mum and dad and were in the bath getting ready for supper and bed. There was no imperative for them to use their powers.

    Children returned to FC unharmed and upset by the bizzies taking them away.

    Police powers are not exercised by the constable in many cases but by the SS who pull his strings.

    I had another case in Brum last year were the cops admitted on video that baby seemed safe, and was “clean and warm” but the SW who also attended put him under so much pressure he took baby in to protective custody.

    Corruption at it’s worse, all in our name.

  2. Alas there is the usual gap between theory and practice .In practice social workers tell parents “Sign this otherwise we may go to court and you will never see your children again” or very similar so the poor mum or dad will often sign without reading it or receiving a copy;
    If parents refuse to sign the police are called in and told that the children are “at risk” and therefore in danger so they take them into police protection which is followed by an interim care order ushered in my a solicitor or barrister ostensibly representing the parents !
    Publish as many guidelines as you like but they are so rarely enforced that they might as well not exist ;

    • Couldn’t agree more. Excuse the pun but nobody is policing mass breaches of law by social workers, policemen and women or any other professional that doesn’t follow the law in safeguarding.

      • It sure seems to have flown past Ofsted, who are supposed to be doing independent inspections of social work. It should not be up to a High Court Judge to be making an LA look at all their s20s with a critical eye, they should have been doing it over the last six years at least.

  3. In almost every case I have seen the use of the protective powers, it was not for emergency. If every parent judicially reviewed the use of the PP by the police, then the SS would no longer have such a willing ally.

  4. ashamedtobebritish

    In almost every case I’ve seen, it’s been a Friday at close of business, therefore the family cannot contact a solicitor until Monday, an unfair advantage.

    Where does this stand when mothers are forced to leave hospital (also usually on a Friday) without their babies? Under what order are they doing this? It can’t possibly be safeguarding, unless of course the local authority & the police consider the maternity ward as unsafe.

  5. Henrietta Coker

    Very useful information. I liked the bit about remembering that there is no O in police protection .Often LA work as if there is an order in place whereas in fact it is the same situation as Section 20 in terms of parents rights.

  6. “Misuse of Police Protection to remove a child”

    Well, considering the police should be of all people following the law and not allowing themselves to be misused, they are as guilty. Surely everyone and his aunt knows by now how much most social workers lie, perjure and fabricate! Don’t the police think it’s wise to double-check they are behaving lawfully, not just using circular assurance that because it’s a local authority demanding something that doesn’t mean they are acting honorably, lawfully, or honestly!

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