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Wednesday, 03 May 2017

Judge rules social services changed sisters' surname unlawfully before adoption

Written by Brian Farmer

Council social services bosses unlawfully allowed the surname of two sisters to be changed before they were adopted, a family court judge has concluded.

Judge James Meston said bosses had allowed the girls' names to be changed to the names of a couple aiming to adopt before an adoption process was complete.

He said they should have prevented the change of name or sought the permission of the children's parents.

The judge had analysed the issue at a family court hearing in Bournemouth, Dorset, after the children's father complained, and has announced his decision in a written ruling.

He said the children involved could not be identified and he has also decided not to name the council involved.

Judge Meston said the children's father wanted the council named.

But the judge concluded that naming the council would increase the risk of the children being identified and might jeopardise their privacy.

The children's father had wanted damages.

He had claimed that his human rights and the children's human rights had been breached.

Judge Meston dismissed the man's claim for damages.

He said there was no evidence to suggest that the name change had any adverse impact on the children.

The judge said a "declaration" that the council had acted unlawfully was a "sufficient remedy".

A judge had decided that the girls should be placed for adoption four years ago following earlier family court litigation.

Judge Meston said the girls' father had made "determined and prolonged" efforts to have the children returned to his care, and had "expressed an increasing number of grievances" against the council involved.

The judge also decided against naming social workers involved and lawyers who had represented the council.

He said he had "carefully considered" the father's "repeated requests" for the council to be named.

The judge said "practice guidance" issued by judicial heads said public authorities should be named in such rulings unless there were "compelling reasons" against such a move.

But he said he had decided that the council should not be named in the ruling.

"First and foremost, to name the local authority would increase the risk of identification and location of the children and of the adopters, even if the judgment did not disclose their names and whereabouts," said Judge Meston.

"If that risk became a reality it would jeopardise the security and privacy of the placement to the detriment of the children."

He said his criticisms of the council were "limited" and did not justify "the public exposure which the father clearly seeks".

Judge Meston added: "For essentially the same reasons I will not allow identification within the published judgment of the local authority's social workers and other employees or of their legal representatives."

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