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Medway Council v M and T [2015] EWFC B164, [2015] MHLO 78

"In this judgment, within ongoing care proceedings, I have determined the applications by T and Mother under the Human Rights Act for declarations and damages. I have set out below the alarming history of the unlawful accommodation of T by Medway Council for over 2 years, and my reasons for declarations to that effect and for the award of damages of £20,000 each to T and her Mother for breaches of their rights to respect for their family life under Article 8 and to fair trial under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. [The following are two paragraphs of the judgment which set out just part of the history.] [24] Instead, again, the Social Worker AT, accompanied by Mother's mental health Social Worker, visited Mother on 3.10.13 and purported to obtain a fresh s20 agreement which they were satisfied she understood and had capacity to make as Mother was able to repeat back to them that it was her consent to Medway Council, that it was voluntary and she accepted she could not care for T then. Medway Council has not been able to provide this document. To its credit, Medway Council does not now attempt to suggest that they obtained a valid s20 agreement from Mother. It is conceded that the August and October 'consents' should not have been relied upon. Clearly Mother should have been properly assessed for her decision-specific capacity, and been fully informed and supported. It is highly unlikely that she would have been assessed as having capacity given her low functioning in combination with her mental illness. [25] In the meantime on 10.9.13, the social work records reveal a note entered by DH, presumably then managing this case as it is headed "Manager's Decisions: Supervision". She wrongly describes T as having been placed in foster care as an "abandoned child when Mother was detained under the MHA". T was not abandoned. Detention in hospital for treatment under the Mental Health Act does not constitute and should never be treated as an abandonment by a parent of their child. DH, however, correctly goes on to say the following: "Mother has signed the Section 20 but Social Worker was concerned whether she fully understood the meaning of this", and with a mixed stab at an accurate understanding of the position wrote: "T cannot remain under Section 20 indefinitely and clear decision making should be made…", continuing under the heading "Actions" she includes this: "Attend a legal gateway meeting to discuss actions regarding long term care plan for child (permanency). The local authority do not have PR and cannot make decisions regarding child under Section 20 without consent from M". These last comments are of course correct, but again such a meeting did not occur and still no steps were taken to address the situation."

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