A social worker seeking damages after a judge’s “intrinsically unfair” criticism got her suspended from her job will take her claim to the European Court of Human Rights.
Chief of the Family Courts, Sir James Munby, gave permission last week for the social worker to disclose documents relating to care proceedings as part of her claim.
The social worker had previously sought damages against the judiciary via the Queen’s Bench Division for misfeasance in public office – which covers claims that public officers have abused their power – but she was advised that would be “unlikely to succeed”. This was due to it being difficult for her to prove “bad faith and/or a lack of good faith”.
Instead she was told she could bring an application to the European Court of Human Rights following a decision it made last year.
She seeks damages for harm done to her health and reputation following criticism made against her and a police officer’s practice in November 2015.
Judge Arthur, who made the criticism, had said: “The local authority and the police generally, but [the social worker] and [police officer] in particular, had subjected [the child] to a high level of emotional abuse over a sustained period as a result of their professional interaction with her”.
A Court of Appeal ruled in November 2016 that the criticism was “the result of a wholly unfair process” and breached the professionals’ right to a fair trial.
‘Real and significant consequences’
In the Court of Appeal judgment, Judge MacFarlane said the social worker and police officer had experienced “real and significant” consequences because of the criticism.
As part of the legal challenge, the social worker had to get permission for certain documents from the care proceedings and appeal process to be disclosed, which Munby agreed to.
She was told she could bring an application to the European Court of Human Rights for breaches of the right to a private life, right to a fair trial and right to remedy if your rights are breached.