As we approach the change in law on 22nd April 2014 that care proceedings should be commenced and completed in 26 weeks, we ask how does that fit when a child is alleged to have suffered from a non-accidental injury? Can that be properly investigated within 26 weeks? How can parents stop themselves from being railroaded in this process?
In the case of Baby Peter this demonstrates how extreme and complicated non-accidental injury cases can be and how they are almost in line with serious criminal cases.
Whilst this is an extreme case there are others at the other end of the spectrum which perhaps do not receive the same amount of publicity. These are the cases where parents find themselves in the bewildering situation of their child being said to have suffered “non-accidental injury” when there are no other indicators.
In the Baby Peter case there were clear indicators that Peter was being brought up in a family that had exposure to substance misuse and long-standing neglect issues. The family were known to social services.
In a recent case where The Family Law Company acted, there were no such indicators. The family on first glance looked to be an average family with close family ties, the mother and father appeared to love their children and yet there was a suggestion of serious non-accidental injuries.
As family law specialists, we acted for the children during those proceedings. During the course of extensive investigations the solicitor involved got all of the parents and children’s medical records and, with the agreement of all parties, several experts involved. It became clear that the mother and father had a cocktail of ailments which could lead to the children being more susceptible to suffering injury than perhaps a normal child.
These cases are complicated, but they happen. In cases like this where there are no other obvious indicators of problems in the family, it is really important that parents have good legal advice with experienced practitioners who have dealt with these issues. The legal advisor will need to have medical knowledge to know what avenues to explore in terms of obtaining medical records, establishing any experts that may be required and also an ability to work with the family to highlight medical conditions that they may be unaware of or may not be willing to share. A sensitive and experienced approach is required.
Our ethos is one of providing the clients with a good holistic service, not only involving legal experience but ensuring clients throughout understand what is happening.
Care Proceedings can be one of the most explosive experiences that a family can face. Good legal representation isn’t an option, it is a must!
For more information on Care Proceedings and Child Protection Law please visit our Children’s Law advice section here.