Page last updated at 10:51 GMT, Tuesday, 30 September 2008 11:51 UK

Damages for parents in care case

Baby (generic)
The couple's child was returned to them after nine months in care

A British couple whose two-month-old daughter was taken into care after a "misguided" suspicion of abuse have been awarded 8,000 in compensation.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled their rights had been infringed because they had no legal redress for the loss of their child in 1998.

The girl, from Oldham, was removed after breaking her leg, but was later found to have brittle bone disease.

The government said the law had since changed, providing a means of redress.

Doctors had suspected that the injury to her thigh bone was not caused by accident and she had been placed in the care of her aunt.

The family was reunited nine months later when another injury revealed her condition.

'Genuine concerns'

The couple - known only as AK and RK - took their case to the European Court after it had been rejected in the House of Lords in 2005.

They complained that their "right to respect for private and family life" and their "right to an effective remedy" were breached.

Human rights judges disagreed with the former claim, ruling that medical and social authorities had a duty to protect children.

I think what motivated them was the very strong feeling that they had been wronged
Emma Holt
Solicitor

"[They] could not be held liable every time genuine and reasonably-held concerns about the safety of children in their families were proved, retrospectively, to have been misguided," the judges said.

But they ruled unanimously that the couple should have had access to legal redress, something their solicitor Emma Holt said amounted to a "recognition that the system had failed them".

She said the couple had not been driven by a desire for compensation.

"I think what motivated them was the very strong feeling that they had been wronged.

"In cases like this people always say, 'No smoke without fire' and these accusations stick.

"I think the family were on a quest to find someone to uphold that what happened to them was wrong."

Human Rights Act

Ms Holt said the judgement opened up the possibility that other families in similar situations could bring human rights claims in the future.

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: "Removing any child from his or her family is a difficult decision to make, but it appears that health and social workers in this case had sufficient reasons to be concerned about the child's welfare.

"The baby was placed with a family member so that the parents could visit easily and often.

"This case pre dates the Human Rights Act, which came into force in 2000 and provides a means of redress for families in this sort of situation."

As well as ruling that they should receive compensation from the UK government, the couple were awarded 14,000 in costs.




SEE ALSO
Lords decide abuse compensation
21 Apr 05 |  Manchester

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