Beds, Herts & Bucks

Attempt to remove children in Milton Keynes rejected

A senior family judge has rejected Milton Keynes Council's attempt to remove three children from their father.

Lord Justice Ward said some of social workers' anxieties about the children's welfare seemed "exaggerated".

At the Civil Appeal Court, he dismissed the council's challenge to a county court judge's refusal to put the children, all aged under 10, into care.

He ruled the "safety threshold" applied in such cases had not been crossed.

Lord Justice Ward said he was "bewildered" as to the threat supposedly posed to them by their father.

No physical harm

All three children were initially cared for by their mother after the parents broke up, said Lord Justice Ward, but this was "not a good placement" and they were later transferred to their father's home.

They live with their father, step-mother, and half-siblings and social workers expressed concerns that they were "not as well clothed or fed as the other children".

But there was no question of the three - two girls and a boy - having suffered any physical harm.

"The real nub of the local authority's concern for the children is that they appear to be differently treated from the other children," Lord Justice Ward said.

Lawyers for Milton Keynes argued the county court judge failed to heed the "totality of the evidence, and in particular the demeanour of the children in the presence of their father and step-mother".

Barrister, Nicola Smith, claimed the father had been obstructive and "aggressive" around social workers, culminating in a "violent outburst" in the presence of his two youngest children.

Lord Justice Ward "roundly condemned" the father's behaviour in dialogue with Miss Smith, but added that, in assessing the child safety factor, this "didn't add much to a row of beans".

The children's long-term future is still under review, with a further county court hearing scheduled for March next year.

A spokesman for Milton Keynes Council said: "Milton Keynes Council considered that the welfare of these children was best protected through an Interim Care Order.

"However, we accept the court judgement and we will continue to work closely with the family to safeguard the children and promote their welfare."

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