HEREFORDSHIRE Council was acting on "incorrect legal advice" when it gave permission for a child in care's life support to be switched off, a full council meeting has heard.

The council meeting came after a judge blasted Herefordshire Council's children's services for their failings in the case of four children taken into foster care in 2012.

Children's services director Chris Baird had given permission for the child, who was being cared for at Birmingham Children's Hospital, to be removed from life support after seeking legal advice from the department's lawyers on June 6 2019, Mr Justice Keehan said.

In an email sent to doctors at the hospital, Mr Baird wrote: “We need to consult with them [the parents] but my legal advice is our duty as corporate parents is to accept the medical advice and avoid unnecessary suffering. If this is contrary to the parents wishes it is unfortunate but we need to take that course”

Life support was withdrawn that morning, and the child died before her mother arrived at the hospital.

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Councillors at the April 27 extraordinary meeting of the council hit out at the failings of the department's legal services after the judge found the decision should not have been made by the children's services director but instead by a court.

"I am concerned about the legal performance. I cannot believe that this advice was given to the director that was provided by a senior member of the children's services legal team, who is no longer with us," Councillor Liz Harvey said.

"But I am also really concerned to read in the judgement that in the middle of the court proceedings, this council presented more than 2,000 new pieces of documentation to the court. I simply do not understand, a whole year in to the high court proceedings, why we were leaving it until we were actually in the middle of the hearing itself to be releasing documents to the court and to the legal teams of all of the interested parties. Why did that happen?"

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Councillor Terry James also questioned who had been responsible for taking the case to the High Court.

"This has cost the council hundreds of thousands of pounds," he said.

"And yet we carried on oblivious to the fact that we had got it wrong, then continued to throw more money at it in order to try and brush it under the carpet."

Children's services legal team member Adam Mohammed said it was true that the legal advice given was wrong.

"The approach taken was under Section 33 of the Children's Act that the local authority could use its parental responsibility to the extent whereby it would marginalise the mother's rights in that respect, and that was completely the wrong thing to do. It is a matter that should have gone to court.

"The research that should have been undertaken to get to that point simply was not done, or was not done sufficiently to get the right legal advice required.

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"In terms of the disclosure point, there were a number of disclosure issues that arose during the final hearing, and that is partly because documentation is kept in different places, and that needs to be resolved. It should be accessible in one place. There is a policy which legal services are putting in place to make sure that never happens again.

"Some of that arises from a direction from the court seeking a review of personnel records, and those records were in different places, and information was not as forthcoming as one would have hoped."