Elisabeth Wickham and Oliver Powell in Luton Borough Council v R & Ors [2024] EWFC 52


28th Mar 2024 | Cases


Elisabeth Wickham, instructed by Family Law Group, represented the First Respondent mother and Oliver Powell, instructed by Hepburn Delaney Solicitors, represented the children’s guardian in Luton Borough Council v R & Ors [2024] EWFC 52.

The case concerned care proceedings of a nearly 14-year-old girl (‘X’) who had made very serious allegations of sexual abuse against several family members. X had also made allegations of physical abuse against her brother, sister, and parents. Consequently, on 31 January 2024, X was made subject to an interim care order under an interim plan of removal from her parents’ care.

Part of the local authority’s pleaded case was that the mother had either not recognised the signs of sexual abuse or had failed to protect X from the family members who she had made allegations against. X was placed in foster care. The police investigation was on-going. The placement in foster care broke down and no alternative placement could be found, leading to X being placed with a sister. On 26 February 2024 the sister confirmed that she could no longer care for X.

The local authority determined that X’s mother should resume care for her in temporary accommodation, despite having successfully argued for interim separation just weeks before. There was no clear explanation offered by the local authority for placing X back with her mother other than the local authority’s assertion that X’s behaviour had improved while in the care of her mother. The court thought this improvement was probably because X was happier in her mother’s care than in foster care.

The court stated that X’s improvement in behaviour could not be used as evidence that the mother was now able to protect X from the risk of sexual and physical abuse and could not be used as a sufficient reason to depart from the risk and welfare assessments of the court.


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