Judge describes care case as ‘feeding frenzy’ of misinformation

Hospital bedSurrey County Council was granted permission to withdraw care proceedings by Mrs Justice Theis in a highly critical recent judgement.

Re E concerned a baby girl, called E in case reports, who was born with a range of complex health problems, which left her dependent on a ventilator and feeding tube. Doctors doubted that she would survive. The girl had heart surgery at the age of just ten days and spent the first 11 months of her life in hospital. Her parents received training in how to look after her and she was eventually allowed to go home with them.

The parents coped with her demanding care regime and their daughter appeared to be doing well. Then social workers developed began to have concerns about the parents. Social workers felt the couple were ‘challenging professional advice’, not maintaining proper boundaries,  and trying to manipulate the medical staff, the Telegraph reports.

Worries were also expressed that the couple had fabricated aspects of her daughter’s health problems and the situation came to a head earlier this year earlier this year when social workers decided the couple might have cut ventilator tubes. As a result, social workers went to the couple’s home the same day, accompanied by uniformed police offers, and took their girl away.

Eventually, after a number of months, the council launched care proceedings, and a lengthy fact-finding hearing began. On the ninth day of the hearing, after evidence from 22 witnesses, Surrey County Council applied for permission to withdraw the care proceedings, saying they would not be able to meet the required minimum criteria for a care order.

Lady Justice Theis granted permission, but made forthright criticisms of the council’s behaviour. It has not properly investigated the evidence reviewed it in a balanced way, she said. There was a lack of effective leadership.

Evidence of damage to the ventilator tubes was “wholly improbable” and it would be impossible to make any findings without “without a huge degree of speculation.”

The judge as also highly critical of the decision to remove the couple’s daughter from their care.

“The peremptory removal of the girl from her parents’ care was achieved through an unfair process whereby the local authority held all the cards and the parents had no choice but to ‘agree’ in circumstances where they, in reality, had no choice.”

The parents were not given access to legal advice.

The judge concluded:

“Regrettably, the evidence points to a feeding frenzy of misrepresented and incomplete information that, adopting the terminology used against the parents, escalated out of control.”

After the girl’s removal, the couple asked for information about the care she was receiving, but, according to the judge, “the parents were regarded as a negative influence in relation to E’s care.”

Mrs Justice Theis praised the parents for their “enormous fortitude” and devotion to their daughter.

Photo by John M Kimmins  under a Creative Commons licence.

Marilyn Stowe

The senior partner at Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe is one of Britain’s best known divorce lawyers with clients throughout the country, in Europe, the Far East and the USA.

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3 comments

Luke - August 13, 2013 at 12:02am

The quality of social workers in this country is deeply worrying, they had better have some very strong evidence before removing a child from its parents .

Time and again we seem to have bizarre decisions from social workers to remove children with flimsy or no real evidence.

Stitchedup - August 16, 2013 at 10:19am

I have a nephew whose child has major heart problems, has suffered strokes and suffers from regular seizures. He requires a heart and lung transplant but the medics are not sure that he has the strength to endure such an invasive procedure. He has to sleep using a ventilator/oxygen and needs oxygen therapy during the day. My nephew and his wife are generally very grateful for the care they receive from our local university hospital but also from St Thomas’ in London. However they do scrutinise the care he receives and will challenge the medical professionals on their assessments etc if they feel the need. They love their son deeply and have to deal with the likelihood that they will only have him for a short time; you can bet your bottom dollar that they will challenge medial professionals if they genuinely feel the need. Parents are far more in tune with the wellbeing of a child than professionals who only see him/her on a periodic basis, they are a valuable source of knowledge/information and should be listened to not threatened with having their child taken away from them if they dare challenge a medical professionals opinion.

anonymous - December 9, 2013 at 8:43am

I myself am just at the beginning of this process and am being accused of very similar concerns raised by my local authority and medical professional. I am at a complete loss and don’t knowcwhat to do. my son has severe disabilities and complex medical problems. After 7 years of caring and loving him, my views are completely disregarded and 24hr monitoring has been placed on my son in hospital and he has not been allowed home until a child conference hearing.

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