The Court can only make an Emergency Protection Order in limited circumstances, generally where a Local Authority is the Applicant, that it is satisfied that the child named in the Order is likely to suffer significant harm if either:-
• The child is not removed to accommodation provided by the Applicant or on their behalf;
• The child does not remain in the place where they are, at the time of the application, being accommodated;
• Urgent access to the child is required by the Local Authority for the purposes of conducting statutory enquiries under the Children Act 1989 and that access is being unreasonably refused to a person authorised to seek such access.
The child’s welfare is the Court’s paramount consideration in deciding whether an EPO should be made and the Court must not make the Order unless doing so would be better for the child than making no Order at all.
In exercising its discretion, the Court must consider:-
• Why it is necessary to remove the child as a matter of urgency;
• Whether there is any alternative way of protecting the child, for example by the alleged abuser leaving the child’s home;
• Whether the child’s removal can be achieved with the co-operation of their carers.
An EPO should be the last and not the first resort due to its serious consequences for the child and the Order should be both necessary and proportionate and the least interventionist solution consistent with the child’s immediate safety. Even if an EPO is granted it is still necessary for the Local Authority to decide whether the child actually needs to be removed to secure his or her safety and if removed then reasonable contact should normally be allowed provided it can be safely managed.
If a child is removed then the child should be returned if it becomes safe to do so.
The maximum period for which an EPO can be granted is 8 days including the day on which the Order is made and there is no right of appeal if an EPO is refused or granted.
Where an EPO is granted, a parent may only apply for its discharge in very limited circumstances and not at all if the parent was given notice of the Application and were present at the EPO Hearing.
In many cases irrespective of whether an EPO is granted or not, a Local Authority is likely to go on to issue care proceedings in relation to the child.