A High Court judge has awarded £20,000 damages to a mother and two children whose human rights were breached after “largely inexcusable” failings during a joint police and council investigation into abuse allegations.
‘Cobb concluded the failings from both agencies occurred “within a context of individual and departmental professional pressure”.
He found no evidence of professional misconduct or negligence on the part of the social worker or local authority lawyer, nor a loss of objectivity. However, he warned the council’s case management was “rudderless, lacking in supervision, hampered by a lack of clear information” and incoherent.
The council was also “overly influenced” by the lead detective sergeant’s “misguided perception of the case”, the judge said. Cobb severely criticised the DS, who had found it difficult to change belief that the images featured the mother and her daughter, and encouraged the council to pursue a case on that basis, “even though he knew that this was, on the evidence of the expert not so”.
The judge found both the police and local authority had acted unlawfully and breached the mother and children’s rights to a fair hearing and rights to a private and family life. The damage caused by the handling of the case was “significant”, he added.
“For a period of many months, two children were separated from their mother against whom allegations of the most serious form of abuse were levelled, while all the while, evidence was available which served to exonerate her.”’
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