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£20,000 in damages given to couple in landmark childcare case

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A couple has been awarded £10,000 each in damages, in one of the first cases of its kind, after their eight children were taken away by a local authority and placed in foster care.

The damages were awarded under the Human Rights Act, after it was decided that the London Borough of Hackney’s actions denied the parents their right to a family life.

Legal procedures against the parents first began when one of their children was arrested on suspicion of shoplifting.

The child in question reportedly told police that his father had beaten him with a belt and when officers went to inspect the family home they decided that it was not a suitable environment for children to be living in, so removed them from their parents’ care.

In court, Hackney council argued that the children’s parents had given consent under section 20 of the Children Act 1989 for their eight offspring to be kept for longer than the 72-hour period permitted under the police order.

However, Deputy High Court Judge Sir Robert Francis QC said that though the initial removal of the children was the right action, no such consent had been given for them to be kept away for the prolonged period.

Sir Francis highlighted the fact that the parents’ distressed state meant they signed the agreement because they believed it was the only way they would see their children again.

The Judge said: “If ever there was a case illustrating the challenges that face children, parents, public authorities and the court when concerns are raised about the safety and welfare of the children it is this.”

He continued: “A swift consideration of the welfare issues concluded that if some simple improvements were made to their home, the children could return home.

“Yet it was two months before the children returned to their parents after experiencing a variety of foster placements, some of which were of dubious quality.”