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!