(Family Division, Cobb J, 8 March 2017)
Public Law Children – Human Rights Act 1998 – Claim by children and father – Declarations and damages - Procedure
Cobb J provided guidance on the procedure to be followed in Human Rights Act 1998 claims.
The two children, now aged 14 and 9, had been the subjects of highly contested private law proceedings and public law proceedings when the mother made allegations of sexual abuse against the father. Contact was suspended for 2 years while an investigation including medical examinations of the children was carried out.
At no time was the father consulted about the investigation or given an opportunity to contribute.
In 2015 the mother died unexpectedly and the children initially moved to live with the maternal grandmother. Once again the father was not notified and found out from a third party. Both the father and the maternal grandmother made applications for child arrangements orders.
The local authority initiated care proceedings on the basis that the children were being harmed in the grandmother’s care due to her implacably hostile views about the father and her position of not permitting the father’s involvement in their lives.
The children were now living with the father and were thriving in his care. The local authority sought no order under Part IV of the Children Act 1989.
The Children Act proceedings were concluded with minimum judicial intervention. The parties were able to agree that the children should live with the father and that the maternal grandmother would have supervised contact as well as indirect contact.
Cobb J provided guidance on the procedure for making claims under the Human Rights Act 1998 including that such claims were governed by the CPR. Due to procedural deficiencies in relation to the children’s HRA claim the matter would have to be adjourned.
In relation to the father’s claim, the local authority had apologised and accepted that declarations should be made as to its failures in procedure. Damages were agreed of £15,000.The children’s HRA claims were adjourned.