The Senior and Managing Partner and I had the privilege of working on a number of complex child proceedings matters. It is often rare for solicitors to be instructed privately as Legal Aid is readily available and pertinently non-means and non-merit tested, where a local authority has initiated the care proceedings.
The Rotherham Grooming Case has particularly highlighted damning failings and called for anxious scrutiny of the local authorities involved and who have failed to protect children from sexual exploitation.
David Tucker, NSPCC head of policy, stated: “This report is a damning indictment of systemic failure to protect vulnerable children and young people from horrific sexual abuse and exploitation. Obvious signs of abuse were missed by a number of agencies and there is no excuse for the way these girls were let down, often by the very people who were meant to protect and care for them.
“The victims in recent child sexual exploitation cases were too often ignored or treated as troublemakers. There now needs to be a culture change among police, CPS, the judiciary, and all child protection professionals, so they better understand how grooming gangs operate, and how young people’s behaviour could be a sign they are at risk of, or suffering, sexual exploitation.”
In a recent matter that Bhogal Partners was instructed on, the firm worked with parents whose daughter had been taken into care following a series of unfounded allegations against them. The child became subject to care proceedings and the local authority thereafter failed to safeguard the child, who consequently became the victim of grooming by a gang of males from the South London area.
Whilst our clients were eligible for legal aid, they felt that the representation they received was strictly confined and dictated by the cuts in public funding, hence leaving them disappointed and their wish for their daughter to be returned to them undermined.
The legal position is that Children Act Proceedings under the new family protocol must now be concluded within a 26 week timeframe as set out in the case of Re S (A Child)  EWCC B44 (Fam).
The case that the firm was instructed on highlighted the unfortunate and difficult position parents are placed in when their children are taken into care. It quickly emerged that the system was designed in such a way that the parents were often categorically blamed for the shortcomings of the local authority, who in this particular matter failed to protect our clients’ child.
The conduct of the so-called professionals was also of particular significance on how a child had been groomed whilst in the care of local authority and the system, which in essence put in place to protect her, inevitably exposed her to considerable physical and psychological harm. Had it not been for our clients’ persistence and perseverance, the outcome may have been very different and our client’s child simply yet another statistic in the vast array of children being taken into care by local authorities and subsequently neglected.
This case highlighted a catalogue of errors in the system and failure by local authorities in protecting vulnerable children that are supposed to be under their care and protection.
It was both a personal and professional accomplishment. It was without doubt an invaluable insight into a system which places children into care. It was an extremely difficult case. However, with the aim of always trying to achieve the best result for the client and with hard work and persistence, Bhogal Partners was successful in securing the return of our client’s child.
The plethora of failings on the part of a Local Authority, and the attempts to conceal these findings were shocking and damning.
Bhogal Partners continue to receive instructions on private children act proceedings from clients who have often been wholly dissatisfied with the representation they have received from legal aid firms.
SUNA RAJPOOT LL.B (Hons)