An application for an EPO will usually be made by the applicant following a joint strategy discussion with the police or other involved professionals. However, in urgent situations the single agency (usually the LA) may need to act immediately and make an urgent Court application without the strategy meeting first taking place.
In some circumstances, an application can be made with the leave of the Court without any notice to any person with PR. Because of a potential breach to the parents’ human rights and in particular to the parents’ right to a fair trial, in reality, the Court is unlikely to allow a without notice application unless it can be proven that there is immediate danger to the child if the parents knew, such as if a threat to kill the child has been made, or if there is a very strong risk the parents will run away with the child.
The Court will appoint a solicitor for the child as well as a Children’s Guardian unless the Court considers that the welfare of the child does not require it.
An application for the EPO will normally be made to the Family Proceedings Court local to the family’s area.
The Court may make the EPO if it is satisfied that one of the following grounds are met:
(a)That there is reasonable cause to believe that the child is likely to suffer significant harm if he is (i)not removed to accommodation provided by or on behalf of the applicant, or (ii) if he does not remain in the place in which he is then being accommodated;
(b)That the LA’s attempts under Section 47 to establish whether the child is at risk of significant harm are being frustrated by denial of access to the child; or
(c)In the case of an application by an authorised person (NSPCC), that the applicant has reasonable cause to suspect the child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm and has been making enquiries with respect to the child’s welfare, and these enquiries are being frustrated by denial of access to the child.
The overall consideration for the Court will be the welfare of the child and the Court will also need to consider whether it is better to make no Order than any order at all. The Court will also need to consider whether the making of the EPO is proportionate to the situation.
Definitions of significant harm and Section 47 investigation can be found elsewhere on this website.
Government guidance suggests that where the need for emergency action to protect the child arises from suspected abuse the LA should seriously explore the possibility of providing services to and/or accommodation for the alleged abuser as an alternative to the removal of the child. For instance, where the risk is posed by the father at the child’s home, the LA should consider whether they could pay for alternative accommodation for the father to keep him away from the home and therefore reduce any risk to the child.