A mother secretly recorded and verbally abused a social worker she accused of having an agenda to remove her children during care proceedings.
A Family Court judgment on the case also revealed the social worker was left with bruises on her face following an incident with the children’s grandmother. The judge found the social worker had been struck by the strap of the grandmother’s handbag, but did not rule on whether it was deliberate or not after witnesses’ accounts differed.
The mother said the social worker had “lied and misrepresented situations” to achieve her “goal” of removing the children. She accused the social worker of waging “a vindictive campaign against her to try and drive her to insanity”. She also secretly recorded the social worker and accused her of “assaulting” one of the children, an allegation the judge rejected.
Judge Hudson rejected the mother’s bid to have her two children, aged eight and nine, returned to her care after finding aspects of her behaviour had put the children in “stressful and upsetting situations”. The judge instead ordered the children to be placed with their father, with care orders attached so the local authority remained involved.
The case originated in private law, where the judge found no evidence to support the mother’s allegations that the children had been sexually abused by their father or anyone else and concluded that statements by the children had been “influenced or prompted” by the mother. The case was moved into public law as the local authority got more involved and the parents’ “volatile” relationship deteriorated.
The children had been subjected to an “extremely distressing episode” when the mother, and the children’s maternal grandmother, refused the social worker entry to their home until police were present, the judge said. The social worker had to visit to explain that the children would move in temporarily with an aunt and uncle on their father’s side of the family, after the court had issued an interim care order.
The behaviour of the mother and grandmother after a contact session had “played a significant part in creating and prolonging” another “distressing episode” that culminated in the handbag incident, the judge found.
At a separate meeting the social worker said the mother had been “loud and abusive” and referred to the aunt and uncle of the children as “working class” and living in a “grotty council estate” while the children were in the next room. The judge concluded the children had been “exposed to their mother’s behaviour and her derogatory statements about the paternal family and local authority”.
The mother had also forwarded the social worker and the local authority a copy of a newspaper article about the death of Ellie Butler, a girl who was murdered by her father. The judge agreed with evidence from the children’s guardian that the mother’s decision to do so was “at the very least inferring that placing the children with their father could place them at risk of harm”.
The judge was asked to weigh up placements with the mother, the father and the maternal grandparents.
She found that the mother had undertaken therapy and a parenting course and there were many recordings of warm and appropriate interaction with her children at contact meetings. However, the judge agreed with evidence that her behaviour during the care proceedings showed that she was not taking responsibility “which is the fundamental change that is required”.
“The risk is that the children are exposed to emotional harm in [mother’s] care by reason of her attitude to [father] and aspects of her behaviour which, as I have found, have continued to put the children in stressful and upsetting situations,” Hudson said.
The judge ruled out a placement with the maternal grandparents after concluding they did not “accept and understand” the harm the children had been exposed to and their daughter’s involvement in it.
She supported the local authority’s plan to place the children with their father, but with care orders attached, as she felt the local authority “must share parental responsibility in respect of these children at this stage to ensure their wellbeing is secured”.
The father was a “less experienced parent” than the mother and there were concerns over “physical chastisement” he had used with one of his sons in the past. However, it was said he had addressed this in his work with professionals.