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Council complains about conduct of solicitor in public law care proceedings

A local authority is reported to have complained about the conduct of a solicitor who represented the father of the youngest child in care proceedings while having “some sort of relationship” with the mother’s brother.

The case of Kent County Council v B, W & S (Combined Judgment: Delay : Refusal to Split Siblings) [2017] EWFC B5 concerned the welfare of three young children.

On what she described as the ‘separate representation issue’, Her Honour Judge Cameron said: “For completeness, I recall that matters were somewhat delayed by the revelation that the woman Solicitor representing Mr. S, the father of the youngest child, was having some sort of relationship with the mother's brother, Mr. B, a witness and Intervener in the case which might have produced some sort of confusion and conflict.

“That Solicitor, perhaps unwisely, has attended both this Court Hearing and been seen in the public foyer, and also attended at the Crown Court, presumably to support Mr. B. It was necessary therefore for Mr Kenny, Mr. S's Counsel, having properly notified the Court of this, to receive his professional instructions from a newly appointed Solicitor in order to ensure a scrupulously fair Article 6 complaint Hearing.”

HHJ Cameron revealed that the matter had been reported to the Designated Family Judge for Kent and also to Medway Family Court's High Court Family Liaison Judge.

“I gather that some sort of complaint has now been made by the Local Authority about that Solicitor's conduct,” she said.

The judge added: “Regrettably this is the third occasion to my own direct knowledge when an issue of conflict has arisen through this particular Solicitor's potentially conflictual behaviour in becoming personally close to parties or witnesses. I do not need to spend any more time on that issue beyond reflecting that it causes delay by having to have a new Solicitor representing a client and also, no doubt, causes extra costs to the Legal Aid Fund.”

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