The European Court of Human Rights has ordered Britain to pay damages to a social worker who became aware of criticism of her conduct only when a family court judge delivered an oral judgment at the end of a hearing.
The social worker went to the Court of Appeal, which found that the process by which the judge arrived at his criticisms was “manifestly unfair”, and set aside the adverse findings.
The Strasbourg court has ruled that the social worker suffered prejudice, personally and professionally, that the Court of Appeal’s judgment did not remedy, the Law Gazette of England and Wales has reported.
The case relates to childcare proceedings in which the social worker was called as a professional witness.
After the oral judgment was delivered, but prior to it being finalised, the family court judge held a series of hearings that addressed submissions by the social worker.
Some changes were made to the text, but the adverse findings remained, and the decision not to grant her anonymity was maintained.
The judge directed his judgment to be sent to the social worker's local authority employer, and advised that it be shared with relevant professional bodies.
A psychiatrist reported that receiving the family court judge’s findings had been a “highly traumatic experience” for the social worker, triggering post-traumatic stress disorder.
The social worker won a total of €24,000 in non-pecuniary damages and €60,000 in costs and expenses.