A case in which police officers deny breaching the human rights of a father who wanted his daughter returned from accommodation provided under the Children's Law will be heard in the Royal Court, it has been decided.
The case has already generated almost £83,000 of legal costs – even though any damages that might arise from the incident are likely to be less than £1,500, Master of the Royal Court, Advocate David Cadin, noted, as he allowed the case to proceed
Following an incident in August 2001, when police officers were called to an incident involving the father demanding the return of his daughter, proceedings were brought against the Minister for Children and Education and Police Chief Robin Smith.
The Minister admitted liability for "breaching the plaintiffs' right to respect for family life" and agreement was reached to pay damages in final settlement. However, the Police Chief has denied liability for actions taken by two of his officers who attended the incident.
Advocate Darry Robinson, representing the father and daughter, asked the Master to give summary judgment in his clients' favour, arguing that it simply needed to be shown that the police acted unlawfully by preventing the father from taking the child into his parental care in the absence of police protection measures and a protection order.
However, the Master disagreed, describing the claim as "an incorrect statement of the law".
Advocate Cadin said: "It purports to treat the plaintiffs’ Article eight rights as absolute and/or ignores the fact that the police have their own powers and obligations which extend far beyond the parameters of Article 41 of the Children Law (and include for example, a power of arrest).
"If any of those other powers were properly exercised by the police, they could (as in this case) have led to the situation where the father was not immediately reunited with his daughter but of itself, that consequence alone does not make the police officers’ actions unlawful.
"Put simply, the father’s right to have the child back in his care under Article 17(8) of the Children Law could not have prevented the police arresting him if the circumstances so warranted."
At an earlier hearing, the Police Chief had applied to have the case referred to the Petty Debts Court but the application was dismissed by the Master who noted that it did not appear that the Royal Court had previously "considered the lawfulness or otherwise of actions by police officers against the backdrop of Article 17 of the Children Law".
He added that the Police Chief did not, in any case, think that there would be a reduction in legal costs as a result.
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