Northamptonshire council order to settle damages claim

A council has been told to come to a settlement on damages with a four-year-old boy's parents over breaches of their human rights over a long period.

Mr Justice Francis said Northamptonshire County Council had not fulfilled its duties.

The council had failed to respect their family life and catalogued its "failures, delays and incompetence".

The judge did not identify the parents or the child, who had lived with his grandmother since 2013.

He urged council lawyers to negotiate settlements of the damages claims but said he would rule if they failed to reach agreement.

Mr Justice Francis, from the Family Division of the High Court in London, said at the hearing in Birmingham the boy had been embroiled in care proceedings.

'Illegal placement'

He ruled the youngster should continue to live with his grandmother who had cared for him for most of his life.

The parents had separated.

Social workers had raised concerns when the boy was a baby and had moved him from home to the care of his grandmother.

Mr Justice Francis said the legality of that placement was in "serious doubt".

He said staff had failed to carry out "full and adequate" family assessments and failed to carry out adequate care planning.

Nearly two-and-a-half years passed before the council began legal proceedings and 10 different social workers had been involved.

The judge said there had been "extraordinary delay and dereliction of duty".

"I find the local authority to have been in egregious breach of its duties," he said.

The council would be able put its side of the story through lawyers, he said.

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