There are a few options available to professionals if they have reasonable cause to believe that a child is likely to suffer significant harm. This section aims to explain what these powers are and what happens if they are used.
If you have concerns about the safety of a child you should make your concerns known to the Social Services department (+500 27296) or the Police (+500 28100 / 28111/ 999).
The police have powers to remove a child to suitable accommodation and keep the child there or take such reasonable steps to ensure that the child’s removal from any hospital, or other place in which the child is being accommodated, is prevented. A police officer may only use this power is they have reasonable cause to believe that the child would otherwise be likely to suffer significant harm. If this power is exercised by a police officer it is known as ‘being taken into police protection’.
If a child is taken into police protection, the police officer concerned must take reasonable steps to inform:
- The child’s parents;
- Every person who is not a parent of the child but who has parental responsibility for the child; and
- Any other person with whom the child was living immediately before taken into police protection
That the child is in police protection, the reasons why and any further steps that may be taken with respect to the child.
As soon as possible after a child is taken into police protection, the police officer concerned must do the following:
- Inform the Attorney General of what has happened, and what is proposed next and why the child is in police protection;
- Inform the Attorney General where the child is being accommodated;
- Inform the child (if the child understands)
- What’s happened and why they are in police protection; and
- What will happen next
- Find out the wishes and feelings of the child (where possible); and
- Ensure that the Chief Police Officer, or another police officer of rank Inspector or above, conducts an inquiry into the actions of the police officer and use of the police protection. At the conclusion of this inquiry, the officer conducting it must release the child from police protection unless the inquiring officer considers there is still reasonable cause for believing that the child would be likely to suffer significant harm if released.
No child may be kept in police protection for more than 72 hours. Whilst the child is in police protection, the Attorney General, or another public officer with the consent of the Attorney General, may apply to the court for an Emergency Protection Order.
Emergency protection order
An Emergency Protection Order (‘EPO’) is an order made by the court placing a child in the care of the Crown for the short-term purpose of either:
- Removing a child from their accommodation; or
- Ensuring the child remains where they are currently accommodated.
To prevent the child from suffering significant harm. The applicant for an EPO can only be a public officer authorised by the Attorney General to make the application. A private citizen is not able to make an application for an EPO.
The court may also make a direction about any contact the child may have with any named person and about the medical or psychiatric examination or other assessment of the child (which the child may refuse to submit to if they have sufficient understanding to make an informed decision).
For the court to make an EPO it must be satisfied that
1) if the child is not removed from their accommodation, or prevented from being removed from their accommodation, there is reasonable cause to believe that the child is likely to suffer significant harm; and
2) the Crown is investigating the child’s circumstances, with the aim to establishing what action it should take to safeguard or promote the child’s welfare; and
3) that the Crown’s investigation into the child’s circumstances is being frustrated by access to the child being unreasonably refused and the applicant has reasonable cause to believe that access to the child is required as a matter of urgency.
Whilst an EPO is in force, the applicant
- Must only deal with the issue of accommodation to safeguard the welfare of the child; and
- May only exercise parental responsibility as is reasonably required to safeguard or promote the welfare of the child.
If there is no direction about contact made by the court, the applicant must allow the child reasonable contact with:
- Their parents;
- Any person who has parental responsibility for them;
- Any person with whom they were living immediately before the EPO was made;
- Any person who has a contact order for them;
- Any person acting on behalf of any of the above.
As soon as it has been established that the child safe to be returned, the applicant should return the child to the care of the person from whom they were removed.
An EPO may be made for a maximum of 8 days and may only be extended once for a maximum of 7 days. It is possible for an application to discharge the EPO to be made to the court. This may be done by
- The child;
- A parent of the child, or any person who has parental responsibility of the child; or
- Any person with whom the child was living with immediately before the EPO was made.
Child Assessment Order
A child assessment order is an order from the court which directs that an assessment of the state of a child’s health or development, or of the way in which the child has been treated, to enable a determination as to whether or not a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm
An application for a child assessment order may only be made by, or with the consent of, the Attorney General.
A child assessment order may only be valid for up to 7 days.
If the child is of sufficient understanding to make an informed decision, they may refuse to submit to a medical or psychiatric examination or other assessment.
A child under a child assessment order may be kept away from their home provided that there is a direction from the court to do so.
If a person makes an application for a child assessment order, they must take reasonable steps to ensure that the following people are aware of the application:
- The child’s parents and another other person who has parental responsibility for the child;
- Any other person caring for the child;
- Any person who has a contact order for the child, or is permitted to have contact with a child who is in care; and
- The child.
An application for a care order is an application made by, or on behalf of, the Attorney General. The effect of a care order is to place a child in the care of the Crown and may only be made by the court if it believes a child is suffering or at risk of suffering significant harm.
The effect of a care order will result in the child being placed with a carer or with another family, but either way the Crown will have parental responsibility for the child and will be able to make decisions about the child. However, the Crown is not able to:
- Cause the child to be raised in any religious persuasion other than that in which the child would have been brought up had the order not been made;
- To agree or refuse to the making of an adoption order with respect to the child;
- To appoint a guardian for the child;
- Cause the child to be known by a new surname without the written consent of every person who has parental responsibility for the child, or the leave of the court.
For a child to be placed under a care order, there must be a care plan in place and this will be discussed with the respondents in the proceedings (the parents, or anyone else with parental responsibility). Whilst a child is in the care of the Crown, the Crown must (as far as appropriate, or ordered by the court) allow the child reasonable contact with:
- The child’s parents
- Any guardian of the child
- Any person who has parental responsibility for the child
A Supervision Order is similar in nature to a care order but instead of the Crown acting like a parent, it will supervise the child and ensure the child’s welfare.