In a case where two brothers spent 13 years in foster care the Lancashire County Council was ordered to pay the costs of the applicants.
In the case of A and S (Children) v Lancashire County Council  EWHC 1689, Mr Justice Peter Jackson found Lancashire County Council liable for the degrading treatment, including physical assault, suffered by two brothers who had spent nearly all their lives in care.
The two brothers were under foster care for 13 years with one boy having to change 96 placements and his brother 77. The judge made a declaration that the council had breached their rights under Arts 8, 6, and 3 of the ECHR and the independent reviewing officer had breached their rights under Arts 8 and 6.
The brothers had been taken into the care of Lancashire County Council in 1998, with their subsequent history being recorded in what the Judge described as a 'staggering 19,000 pages of social work records'.
In 2002 the brothers were placed with 'abusive' foster carers and were removed when the police became involved. In 2008, they were again removed from another foster family when one of the boys was assaulted with a belt.
In the latest proceedings in the case relating to the costs of the substantive application, Mr Justice Peter Jackson, acknowledged that under normal circumstances an application by the local authority seeking discharge a freeing order or a placement order would not lead to any consideration of a costs order against it but in the instant case council’s conduct with regard to the boys was blatantly unlawful and unreasonable (as admitted by the council and the reviewing officer) over a long period of time had led inexorably to substantial litigation with material to be analysed itself being extensive, requiring considerable time.
A costs statement in the £175,000 + VAT has been served on behalf of A and S. Jackson J concluded that he didn’t consider that the facts of the case merit the additional penalty or stigma of an award on the indemnity basis.
It would have been a different issue if the council had not cooperated in the litigation process to the extent that it did.
The costs statement was ordered to be subject to a detailed assessment on the standard basis.