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Council to pay £17,500 damages to 14 year old for human rights breaches

A High Court judge has ordered a county council to pay £17,500 in damages to a 14-year-old girl in care for breaches of her human rights.

The case of Kent CC v M and K (Section 20: Declaration and Damages) [2016] EWFC 28 concernced the future care of K.

Mrs Justice Theis made a final care order, endorsing a care plan for K to remain in long-term foster care. There was no issue about that between the applicant local authority, Kent County Council, K's mother, M, and K's Guardian.

“This order will enable the [local authority] to share parental responsibility and give K the security and stability that her welfare clearly demands. The arrangements for K to see her mother and sister are agreed,” the judge said.

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However, a claim under the Human Rights Act 1998 had also been made on behalf of K.

This was for declarations that the local authority had breached K's rights to family life (article 8) and a fair trial (article 6), together with a claim for damages.

K had been placed in Kent’s care pursuant to section 20 Children Act 1989 on 14 December 2011. However, the local authority only issued the current proceedings on 16 November 2015.

The county council denied the claim. K's mother supported it.

Mrs Justice Theis decided that she should make the declarations sought that K's article 6 and 8 rights had been breached by the local authority.

The judge reached the conclusion that Kent had acted in breach of K's article 6 and 8 rights in that the council:

1. Failed to properly assess K from March 2012 until July 2015.

2. Failed to implement a care plan that met K's needs from March 2012 until July 2015, including ensuring there were sufficient procedures in place to give effect to the recommendations of the LAC Reviews. (Art 8)

3. As a result of (1) and (2) above the council failed to provide K with a proper opportunity to secure a suitable long-term placement and a settled and secure home life. (Art 8)

4. Failed to issue proceedings in a timely manner from March 2012 to November 2015 as a consequence the local authority deprived K from the protection afforded to children under the Children Act 1989 and access to the court and the procedural protection of a Guardian. (Arts 6 and 8)

Mrs Justice Theis added that she was satisfied that an award of damages was necessary in this case. “In my judgment K's rights under articles 8 and 6 have been seriously interfered with by the actions of this [local authority]," she said.

Responding to the ruling, a Kent County Council spokesman said: “ We acknowledge and accept the findings of the court in relation to this case and the criticism of the delay in initiating care proceedings.

“We have worked hard over a number of years in supporting this child and her family though it is regrettable that she has experienced disruptions both in terms of placement and social worker. Happily she is now in a more settled position and we will continue to do our utmost to ensure that she receives the consistent levels of care and support that she requires.” 

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