The Family Court in Brighton has fined a Local Authority £65,000 for what has been described as an inordinate delay in issuing care proceedings.
The children were accommodated by the Local Authority on a voluntary basis (section 20) from January 2013 until July 2015 when the Court granted an Interim Care Order.
In this case the Court accepted that the section 20 agreement was valid and therefore lawful but the Judge still found that the Local Authority had purported to hold parental responsibility for the children, it did not. The Judge further found that the Local Authority failed to promote contact between the children and their mother. The Judge found that the delay in the issuing of care proceedings caused the children to be without independent representation and a lack of adequate assessment. Finally the Judge found that Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) had failed to challenge the conduct of the Local Authority sufficiently robustly.
The Judge ordered that each of the three children be awarded £20,000 for a breach of their Human Rights (article 6 and 8).
The Judge further ordered that the mother be awarded £5,000 for a breach of the same Human Rights.