Milton Keynes Council has been hammered by a top judge for unlawfully removing a frail pensioner from her devoted son’s care due to social worker’s concerns about her welfare.
District Judge Timothy Mort said the council was guilty of a “deplorable” failure in delaying the investigation of concerns about the octogenarian.
Equally unacceptable was the council’s failure to apply to the Court of Protection for the necessary legal authority to remove the pensioner from her home, he added.
On top of that the elderly woman - named only as X - was taken from her house to a care home by social workers while her son was away.
“He was not informed of his mother’s whereabouts until 19 days after her removal, and then, I am told, only in response to a letter from his solicitor,” the judge said.
The council’s delay in pursuing its “safeguarding investigation” meant the woman had restricted contact with her son, he added, noting: “The way they have dealt with this case has been woefully inadequate from the start”.
“It has resulted in avoidable and unlawful interference in X’s right to liberty and security of person, and her right to respect for her private and family life and her home”.
The judge made a ruling that the woman was unlawfully deprived of her liberty between the day she was removed from her home and the making of a Court of Protection order which authorised her residence in a care home.
“I understand that the council have agreed to send letters of apology in respect of their failings to both mother and son,” said the judge.
“Those letters should be written and despatched without delay, and within the next seven days”.
X - described as an independent-minded and devout pensioner, although now suffering from dementia - was removed to the care home due to evidence of “escalating injuries” such as cuts and bruises to her head and face.
The council “filed and served a schedule of allegations concerning her son” - which were vehemently denied.
However, 16 months after removing the mother, the council dropped the allegations and the police took no action.
Council officers told the court that their “safeguarding practices” have been comprehensively reviewed in the light of X’s case.
The safeguarding investigation - when was finally completed in September last year - concluded that neither the son nor his companion had sought “appropriate and timely treatment for the mother”.
Investigators concluded that X had “suffered acts of neglect or omission” and should not be returned to the couple’s case. The son bitterly disputed those findings.
The judge said the council’s reform of its practices had “come too late for the mother”. He added: “She has been removed from her home and detained unlawfully.
“She has no prospect of being able to return to her home. Her son has had allegations raised against him by Milton Keynes Council which he has denied and which have not been pursued. These allegations have led to restrictions on contact between mother and son.”
The judge said he had also heard testimony from the son who is “undoubtedly devoted to his mother”.
“He visits her on a daily basis unless prevented by illness,” said the judge, who noted that he had cared for his sick mother at home for nearly four years before her removal.
The likely future scenario is that the mother will remain in care, although with regular visits and outings.