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Monday, March 19, 2007

Girl placed with Protestant foster parents sues council


The Times has reported on a Court case in Scotland where a Roman Catholic teenager has brought a landmark legal action against a council for, amongst other things, sending her to live with Protestant foster parents.

The young woman, identified only as “AR”, is seeking damages of £70,000 from Highland council for housing her with two sets of Protestant foster parents after she was taken into care aged 8.

Now 18, she has been granted legal aid to mount a case against the council and was yesterday given the go-ahead for it to be heard in the Court of Session in Edinburgh, Scotland’s supreme civil court.

In a written ruling after a brief hearing, Judge Lord Uist appeared to admit that the case was unprecedented, saying that it involved “novel and difficult questions of law”.

He added: “I think that the only appropriate forum for this action is the Court of Session. Indeed, I think that [its] unusual nature qualified it for the Court of Session more than many personal injury actions, some of very low value, which are customarily raised here.” If successful, the action would extend dramatically the boundaries of human rights legislation in Britain and could trigger a host of similar cases.

Legal papers were served on Highland council this year, while documents lodged before the court said only that the council had failed to accommodate the girl’s religious needs.

According to the papers, the council failed to ensure that she could follow “her religious persuasion throughout the period she was looked after and accommodated”.

The issue before Lord Uist was only concerned with the appropriate forum for the litigation. There are other issues in the case.

However the case may have important ramifications to the question of the religious upbringing of a child who is subject to child care proceedings.It would be interesting to see how the case determines such issues especially in light of the recent difficulties which Catholic adoption agencies have had as a result of recent UK legislative changes.

The case report is AR v. THE HIGHLAND COUNCIL [2007] ScotCS CSOH_51 at http://www.bailii.org/scot/cases/ScotCS/2007/CSOH_51.html