February 2, 2023

Human Rights in Jersey

The Royal Court has today published its judgment in a landmark Jersey Human Rights case involving a Jersey Family, where the Children’s Service and the States of Jersey Police have been found to have acted in breach of Article 8 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights. The Court’s findings drew attention to the fact that that the actions of the Children’s Service were unlawful.

The underlying complaint is that the Children’s Service wrongly removed the children from the care of their parents and placed them in foster care. The police then wrongly exercised their protection powers to keep the children from the care of their parents.

The parents admitted to making an honest, well-intentioned misjudgement in the care of one child. It was the first instance of any misjudgement in the care of any of their otherwise loved and well cared for children. One of their children described the actions of the parents at school and the school contacted the Children’s Service to investigate the situation.

The mother was represented by Advocate Robinson an expert in Human Rights and Children’s law who said,

“The Children’s Service pressed the mother (who thought she had no alternative) to relinquish all of the children into foster care. The mother was not told she had any legal rights to object to her children being taken into care and she was not told that she could revoke any consent given.”

The Court found that the children’s mother and another family member were led to believe by the Children’s Service that the children would be returned to them on the Monday following removal of the children on the Friday. However, that did not happen, and all of the children were suddenly and traumatically separated from the care of their parents for over two weeks.

The Court held that even if the actions of the Children’s Service had been lawful, which they were not, they would still have been in breach of the Article 8 rights of this family because the actions of the Children’s Service were not proportionate in no less than nine different ways, which were all expressed in the judgment. The Children’s Service, being unwilling to see the children returned to their parents, made a request to the police to take the children into police protection and, in doing so, they subverted the process envisaged by the Children’s Law and bypassed court proceedings. The police did not in fact have reasonable cause to believe that each child would be likely to suffer significant harm if removed from the foster carers and returned to their parents, they relied on the wrongful opinion of Children’s Services.

The Court noted in their judgment that the mother’s advocate had written to the Children’s Service via the Law Officers’ Department, upon being appointed, explaining there were no grounds for emergency proceedings and asking for the immediate return of the children to the care of their

parents. Had the children been immediately returned to parental care at that point in time than the public costs associated with proceedings, which lasted for almost three years, might have been avoided.

Advocate Robinson also said,

“Central to this judgement are the children and the trauma they unnecessarily experienced due to the unlawful actions of the Children’s Service. A conciliatory sensible approach might well have avoided this unfortunate situation and the unnecessary distress caused to the children and their parents.”

We at Benest & Syvret remain committed to protecting the Human Rights of individuals and families in Jersey. For further information please contact Advocate Darry Robinson on tel. 875875 or by email at Darry.Robinson@benestsyvret.com

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