When grandparents were wrongly accused during care proceedings of colluding in the sexual abuse of their grandchildren, they denied the claims and were subsequently exonerated by the judge after an investigation that lasted more than five weeks. As the grandparents did not qualify for legal aid, they ended up with a legal bill of more than £55,000.
They went to court to apply to have their costs paid by the local authority which had responsibility for the care proceedings, and which was ultimately responsible for the court proceedings being brought. The argument over the costs went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled that the local authority could not be criticised for investigating the accusations that had been made against the grandparents.
Although the accusations proved to be ill-founded, the local authority could not be held responsible for the grandparents’ legal costs.
This case has potential implications for anyone involved in care proceedings in which similar accusations are made. Even a modest income can disqualify a person from state support for their legal costs and, if the local authority has acted properly, the result for anyone who has been falsely accused can be a sizeable legal bill in order to clear their name.
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