Williams and Another v London Borough of Hackney: SC 18 Jul 2018

On arrest for shoplifting a 12 year old said he had been doing so to get food, and that he had been hit with a belt by his father. Investigation revealed the home to be dangerous, and all eight children were removed to the care of the LA. The parents were allowed to visit the children subject to an agreement. On the expiry of the initial section 20 72-hour period, the family’s solicitors requested their return. The children were only returned after 7 weeks and the family complained of infringement of their right to family life, saying that the agreement signed was uninformed consent. They now appealed from the CA who decided that section 20 did not require active parental consent.
Held: The appeal failed.
‘although it is not a breach of section 20 to keep a child in accommodation for a long period without bringing care proceedings, it may well be a breach of other duties under the Act and Regulations or unreasonable in public law terms to do so. In some cases there may also be breaches of the child’s or the parents’ rights under article 8 of ECHR.’
and ‘ there are circumstances in which a real and voluntary delegation of the exercise of parental responsibility is required for a local authority to accommodate a child under section 20, albeit not in every case (see para 40 above). Parents with parental responsibility always have a qualified right to object and an unqualified right to remove their children at will (subject to any court orders about where the child is to live). Section 20 gives local authorities no compulsory powers over parents or their children and must not be used in such a way as to give the impression that it does. It is obviously good practice in every case that parents should be given clear and accurate information, both orally and in writing, both as to their own rights and as to the responsibilities of the local authority, before a child is accommodated under section 20 or as soon as practicable thereafter.’
Baroness Hale of Richmond PSC, Lord Kerr of Tonaghmore, Lord Wilson, Lord Carnwath, Lady Black JJSC
[2018] UKSC 37, [2018] WLR(D) 454, [2018] 3 WLR 503, UKSC 2017/0037
Bailii, Bailii Summary, WLRD, SC, Bailii Summary, SC Summary Video, SC 14 Feb 2018 am Video, SC 14 Feb 2018 pm Video, SC 15 Feb 2018 am Video, SC 15 Feb 2018 pm Videos
Children Act 1989 20, Human Rights Act 1998 4, European Convention on Human Rights 8
England and Wales
At CALondon Borough of Hackney v Williams and Another CA 26-Jan-2017
. .
At QBDWilliams and Another v London Borough of Hackney QBD 17-Sep-2015
Children had been removed from their parents under s20 of the 1989 Act, but then not returned after the expiry of the initial 72 hour period.
Held: The court dismissed the claims for negligence, misfeasance in public office and religious . .
CitedG, Regina (on the Application of) v Nottingham City Council Admn 1-Feb-2008
The respondent authority had removed the child from the mother at birth but without first obtaining any court authority. The court had made a peremptory order for the return of the child. The court explained its actions.
Held: Neither social . .
CitedRe N (Children : Adoption: Jurisdiction) CA 2-Nov-2015
Appeal against care and placement order proceedings in relation to two Hungarian children, The orders were for the transfer of the case to Hungary.
Held: The appeal was dismissed. As to Article 15, the Court considered: What are the . .
CitedIn re W (Children) CA 25-Jul-2014
Appeal against an order made after an agreement within the family that the children should live with the paternal grandmother.
Orse In re W (Parental Agreement with Local Authority)
The mother had placed her three children with their . .
CitedRe CA (A Baby) FD 30-Jul-2012
Orse Coventry City Council v C, B, CA and CH
This concerned the removal of a baby from her mother on the day of her birth, but the mother, having at first refused to do so, had given her consent to the baby being accommodated. The local . .
CitedRedcar and Cleveland Borough Council v Others (Re B) CA 30-Jul-2013
The court was asked as to local authority funding in relation to a child, K, who was born in November 2011.
Black LJ explained: ‘I raised the question during the appeal hearing as to whether a parent who is inadequate is in fact ‘willing and . .
CitedHerefordshire Council v AB FC 1-Feb-2018
. .
CitedMedway Council v M and T (By Her Children’s Guardian) FC 13-Oct-2015
A child (aged five) was placed in emergency foster care after his mother was detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act. The mother was then too unwell to discuss section 20. The local authority thought that there was no need to issue care . .
CitedIn re H (A Child – Breach of Convention Rights – Damages) FC 29-Oct-2014
A new born baby was placed with foster carers on discharge from hospital. Both parents had learning difficulties and agreed to the baby being placed with a particular couple. At that stage the local authority considered this an informal arrangement . .
CitedNorthamptonshire County Council v AS and Others FD 30-Jan-2015
The mother agreed to the accommodation of her two-week-old baby and care proceedings were issued nearly four months later. The local authority accepted that they had acted in breach of the rights of both mother and child under article 6 and 8, . .
CitedRe AS (Unlawful Removal of A Child) FC 7-Aug-2015
The case concerned a boy aged eight at the material time, both of whose parents had severe mental health problems. Very shortly after he had been returned to his mother’s care when she came out of hospital, she suffered a relapse and called an . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 07 August 2021; Ref: scu.620141