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Family judge criticised

Family judge criticised for not naming council that breached father’s rights

Lib Dem ex-MP says judge Heather Anderson wrong not to name council that failed to consult man over daughter’s placement in foster care
Family judge criticised

The judge decided that the child should be placed for adoption. Photograph: Alamy

A family court judge has come under fire after refusing to name a council that violated a man’s parental rights by taking his four-year-old daughter into care without a proper investigation.

Judge Heather Anderson said the council had admitted breaching the human rights of the man, who has a learning disability and is separated from the girl’s mother.

Staff had not consulted him when temporarily placing the girl, who had lived with her mother, with foster carers after concerns emerged about her being neglected. He had not been asked if he could care for his daughter or suggest other possible carers, pending decisions about her long-term future.

Social services had accepted that their conduct had been incompatible with the man’s right to a fair trial and his right to respect for family life. They had admitted failing to consult the man when his daughter was placed in foster care, failing to identify him as a father with parental responsibility and failing to recognise and correct errors.

But Anderson said she would not name the council or social workers involved because it would not serve any purpose to attribute failings to individuals. Defending her decision, she added that social workers and their legal advisers worked under huge pressure.

A former MP who campaigns for improvements in the family justice system has said the judge was wrong not to name the council. Liberal Democrat John Hemming, who chairs the campaign group Justice for Families, said the public had a right to know.

Detail of the case has emerged in a written ruling by the judge following a private family court hearing in Leeds. Anderson said the girl had temporarily been placed with foster carers in late 2014. Decisions on the girl’s long-term future had been made following a hearing in August 2015.

The judge said she had decided the child should be placed for adoption, adding that her father had attended a special school, could not read and had never worked. According to court documents, the girl had regular contact with him when living with her mother.

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