Tuesday, December 08, 2009

O & Anor v Orkney Island Council: Do budget needs trump welfare?

I don't recall ever having previously heard of a senior judge having to adjourn a case in order to calm down, or at least admitting to this. That, however, is what Mr Justice Hedley (left) did in the case O & Anor v Orkney Island Council [2009] EWHC 3173, when he became so angered that two local authorities had 'abandoned' a sick child, in order to save money. He said:

"The local authorities were present at court not to assist – in fairness they did not even make a pretence at that – but to obtain legal authority to distance themselves from responsibility for this child. I confess that as I listened to these matters, disbelief was not the only thought or emotion that I experienced. Indeed I found it necessary to adjourn briefly so as to ensure that no wholly improper judicial observations escaped my lips. This judgment has been reserved not because the issues are difficult (they are not) but because I did not trust myself to express my views in a temperate manner. I have always had a high regard for the contribution that social workers make to the family justice system but if in fact we have reached a stage where budget needs trumps welfare then we all need to know. Hence my adjourning this judgment into open court."

A summary of the case may be found on Family Lore Case Digest, here.

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