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High Court hears claim that aspects of Adoption and Children Act 2002 are incompatible with ECHR

Parents seek redress where local authority ends placement before adoption hearing

The High Court has heard the case of R (DL & ML) v London Borough of Newham, to consider a claim that parts of the Adoption & Children Act 2002 are incompatible with the human rights of parents who want to adopt children. 

In this case the claimant parents, represented by Bhattia Best Solicitors, had been approved as prospective adopters following assessments, and a child was placed with them with a view to possible adoption in April 2009.  The child was then two and a half years old. 

In June 2010 the couple decided to make the necessary application to court for an adoption order, which the local authority then supported.  Had the parents been able to make the application to court immediately there would have been a number of safeguards for the parents within the court procedures. However, the parents say that they were unable to submit the application to court because the local authority failed to supply to them necessary supporting documents. 

In August 2010, following a brief interaction between a social worker and the child, then 4 years old, a mention of smacking was made and, despite the parents' denials, the local authority ended the placement.  The parents were unable to make their adoption application to the court until 3 days after the local authority had ended the placement.  That application to the court was too late, and the Act does not give the court jurisdiction to review the local authority's decision.  

It is understood that subsequent investigations and enquiries have supported the parents, but the local authority has refused to review or reverse its decision to remove the child.

Under the Act, no protection or redress is provided to parents with whom the courts have placed a child with a view to possible later adoption, when a local authority subsequently decides to remove a child, before the court has been asked to decide whether or not an adoption order should be made.  

At the beginning of April Mr Justice Charles heard the case. The Secretary of State for Education, took part in the hearing as an intervener.  The court has been asked to decide whether the terms of the Act are incompatible with the parents' rights under Articles 6 and 8 of the European Convention. 

Judgment has been reserved. Family Law Week will publish it in due course provided that the court's permission is forthcoming.