Revised 22 April 2014

One of the greatest weaknesses of care proceedings hearings are their reliance on expert evidence.

In cases of non-accidental injury, this is particularly manifest:

A child has sustained an injury; the parents claim it to be the result of an accident. For care proceedings to proceed, it must be proven to the court that the injuries were not the result of an accident but were willfully and maliciously caused.

“At a time when
my integrity was
being questioned,
Rebecca believed
in me and
continually gave me
the strength and
encouragement
to fight to be
proactive in proving
my innocence. She
remained professional
at all times and saw it
through to the end
when we received
the news that Social
Services admitted
they were wrong and
dropped the case.”Our client, Joanne

How is this established? Through the testimony of “experts” whose knowledge is accepted as “proof.”

It must be remembered that, unlike the criminal courts, the standard of proof in a civil court is simply the ordinary standard – past facts must be proved to have happened on the balance of probabilities, that is, that it is more likely than not that they did happen. Predictions about future facts need only be based upon a degree of likelihood that they will happen which is sufficient to justify preventive action.

With this not-too strict standard of proof, it is all too easy for injustices to occur: an expert’s testimony that a child’s injuries are non-accidental in nature might be enough to have a child separated from its family in a misguided effort to protect them from harm.

However, expert evidence from another, more highly trained expert might very well contradict that verdict and show that on the balance of probabilities it is more likely that some medical condition was the cause of the child’s observed injuries; thus allowing the child to remain with their parents where they belong.

This situation is made worse by the hurried fact-finding that tends to occur in child care cases, where there is simply not enough time taken to hear all the facts to establish what is the truth. This is even more true than ever now, with the advent of the Children and Families Act 2014, demanding that care proceedings are fully resolved within 26 weeks.

Additionally, the new Act to some degree limits the admission of expert testimony, directing that its use is “permitted only when necessary to resolve the case justly, taking account of factors including the impact on the welfare of the child, and whether the information could be obtained from one of the parties already involved in the proceedings.” And any evidence put before the court without the required permission will be treated as inadmissible.

Contact Us Now

Brendan Fleming Solicitors are nationally recognized as a leading choice in the area of care work. We are justifiably proud of our expertise and our success rate. We are contracted to the Legal Services Commission for this type of work and are considered to be one of the leading national firms for publicly funded services.

Our principal, Brendan Fleming, has won a reputation for his innovative approach, spearheading many new ways of securing justice for families caught in the care proceedings trap. He is a member of a select children’s panel and recognized and approved by the Law Society.

If you need a Care Proceedings Solicitor to help you, contact Brendan Fleming today.

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Brendan Fleming Solicitors
165 Newhall Street BirminghamWMB3 1SW UK 
 • 0121 683 5000
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