Page last updated at 18:58 GMT, Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Court win for smack row parents

A couple who told social workers they had the right to smack their adopted son have won the right to a re-hearing in a bid to adopt his sister, aged two.

Newham Council in east London told them they were unsuitable because of their attitude to corporal punishment, their finances and child safety concerns.

But the High Court in London quashed the council's decision as unreasonable.

Mr Justice Bennett said it contradicted the findings of an independent panel and was "bordering on the bizarre".

Outside court the parents, known only as Mr and Mrs A, said they were "absolutely delighted" by the decision.

The council said it will make a "fresh decision" on the case in the light of the court ruling.

Walked home

The court heard that Mr A admitted once smacking his adopted son for swearing.

He also threatened to use "the belt" to stop the boy from doing something, although he never actually used it.

The council said they were not suitable to adopt the boy's half-sister, known as K, because of their attitude to corporal punishment and their financial circumstances.

It also cited concerns about Mr and Mrs A's attitude towards child safety after they allowed their eight-year-old adopted son, known as S, to walk home from school on his own.

But the High Court ruled that the council, for no apparent reason, had rejected the conclusion of an independent review panel which recommended the adoption.

For us this case is not about smacking but people being treated in the correct way by their local authorities
Mr and Mrs A

The judge said the panel had accepted the couple's reassurances regarding corporal punishment and other matters.

The panel found Mr and Mrs A to be experienced foster parents who could support the financial and emotional needs of children, he added.

Mr Justice Bennett said the parents had "understandable feelings that, to put it bluntly, the council was against them".

He told the council to reconsider Mr and Mrs A's general suitability for adoption and, if it found in their favour, to carry out a new assessment of their application.

Outside court the parents said: "We will continue our fight to adopt K but this was an important hurdle to overcome."

They added: "For us this case is not about smacking but people being treated in the correct way by their local authorities."

Kim Bromley-Derry, Newham Council's executive director for children and young people, said decisions regarding adoption were "complex and challenging".

"As a result of today's court decision we will be making a fresh decision as to whether Mr and Mrs A are suitable to adopt children, and if so whether a further assessment needs to be carried out," she said.

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