Let’s hope Mr Justice Munby is taking his blood pressure tablets: this week he has had good reason to be apoplectic about government failures to obey the law. The first concerned the case of SK, a prisoner who had not received the regular reviews required by law. The opening four paragraphs of the judgment include this:
I have to say that the melancholy facts that have been exposed as a result of these proceedings are both shocking and scandalous. They are shocking even to those who still live in the shadow of the damning admission by a former Secretary of State that a great Department of State is ‘unfit for purpose’. They are scandalous for what they expose as the seeming inability of that Department to comply not merely with the law but with the very rule of law itself…SK will evoke sympathy in few hearts but everyone is protected by the law, by the rule of law.
Today the papers are full of the case of a baby who was taken away from its mother without a court order:
Local social services had shown hospital staff a “birth plan” detailing how the mother, who suffers from mental health problems, was not to be allowed contact with the child without supervision.
However Mr Justice Mumby said that no baby can be removed “as the result of a decision taken by officials in some room”.
And quite right, too. It’s alarming that any practitioners can be so convinced of their own rectitude that they don’t feel any obligation to obey the rule of law and present evidence to a court.
As the European Court of Human Rights said twenty years ago:
it is an interference of a very serious order to split up a family. Such a step must be supported by sufficiently sound and weighty considerations in the interests of the child… it is not enough that the child would be better off if placed in care.