London Borough of Lambeth v L (Unlawful Placement) [2020] EWHC 3383 (Fam)

A care order was first made in relation to L in 2016 after his mother’s death; his father disputed paternity and did not have parental responsibility. L suffers from Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and significant issues with regulation of emotions.

Following a series of failed foster placements, L was moved to a residential placement in January 2019. From this point L was subjected to a number of regimes “that may have amounted a deprivation of his liberty, including high levels of supervision and physical restraint” [11]. This included 2:1 supervision in January 2019 which was subsequently increased to 3:1 in November of that year. L moved to his current placement on 28 January 2020, with 2:1 supervision shortly afterwards, yet an application for an order authorising the deprivation of L’s liberty was not issued by the local authority until 28 August 2020.

Although MacDonald J authorised the deprivation of L’s liberty, he strongly reiterated the “vital” requirement that “all local authorities adhere strictly to the proper legal procedures where a child is to be deprived of his or her liberty in a placement”.  As such, Lambeth “failed entirely to take the steps required” to ensure L’s deprivation of liberty was lawful at his current placement. MacDonald pointed to the requisite steps as summarised by Sir James Munby in Re A-F (Children) [2018] EWHC 138 (Fam) which must be “applied with rigour notwithstanding the current accepted difficulties in finding appropriate placement for children with complex needs”. In plain, neither the ongoing public health crisis, nor the emergency nature of a particular case were valid reasons for failing to follow the process set out in Re A-F.

 The full judgment can be accessed here.