Emergency Protection Orders

Purpose of an Emergency Protection Order 

The reason for an emergency protection order is to enable a child in a genuine emergency to be removed from where he is, or be kept where he is, depending on the given circumstances in order to provide short-term protection.

The emergency protection order is an extremely serious step which should not be taken lightly or regarded as a routine step in family law proceedings for the protection of children.

Who can apply for an emergency protection order and on what grounds can they apply?

The emergency protection order is entirely forward looking considering the likely future happenings.

S44(1) (Children’s Act 1989)

Where any person applies to the court for an emergency protection order to be made under this section, with respect to a child, the court may make the order if and only if they are satisfied that that:

  • There is reasonable cause to believe that the child is likely to suffer significant harm if not removed and taken to new accommodation provided by or on behalf of the applicant, or if he does not remain in the accommodation where he is being provided treatment.
  • Or where an application is made by a local authority or for instance NSPCC, and there are enquiries being made with regards to the child’s welfare and these enquiries are being aggravated by access to the child being unreasonable refused to the authorised person who is conducting the enquiries and that this person believes that the access to the child is a matter of urgency .

Ex Parte Applications

Most emergency protection orders may, and most commonly are made ex parte. Ex parte cases do not require all parties to the court case to be present during the hearing.

Effects of an emergency protection order 

  • While an emergency protection order is in place it operates as a direction/ order to any person who is in a position to do so to comply with any requests to produce the child to the person in authority.
  • The emergency protection order authorises the removal of the child at any time to accommodation that is provided by or on behalf of the applicant and the child must be kept there. 
  • The order also authorises the prevention of the child’s removal from any hospital or place the child may be receiving treatment. 
  • An Emergency protection order also gives the applicant parental responsibility for the child concerned.
  • The applicant who receives parental responsibility through the use of an emergency protection order must only exercise their parental responsibilities as so far as it is for the protection of the child’s welfare.
  • Where the person holding parental responsibility is required to return the child, he shall do so either to the person from who’s care the child was removed or if that is not reasonably practical they must return him to the care of his parents, any person who may not be a parent but holds parental responsibility or such persons the courts consider appropriate.  

Reasonable contact

  • A provision in the order may direct where appropriate who should and should not have contact with the child.
  • The applicant shall, subject to the courts directions, allow reasonable contact between the child and the child’s parents.

Duration of an Emergency Protection order

  • The maximum duration of an Emergency Protection order is Eight days. Where the person who applied for the emergency protection order is the local authority or the NSPCC a limited extension for a further seven days may be granted . Only one extension is permitted.
  • There may be an application made for the discharge of the Emergency protection order. This application for discharge may be brought by the child, the parents, persons with parental responsibility and any person whom the child was living with immediately prior to the execution if the Emergency Protection Order.
  • This discharge cannot be applied for within the first 72 hours following the establishment of the order.  

Can the alleged abuser be removed instead?

Originally, The Children’s Act 1989, did not provide any provisions for the removal of the alleged abuser instead of the child and many local authorities tried to bring actions of this nature all of which where unsuccessful.

The Family Law Act 1996 amended the Children’s act 1989 to include the exclusion requirement within the emergency protection order.

An exclusion requirement is any one of the following:

  • A provision requiring the relevant person to leave the dwelling house in which they live with the child who is subject to the emergency protection order.
  • A provision prohibiting the relevant person from entering a dwelling house in which the child who is subject to the emergency protection order lives. 
  • A provision excluding the relevant persons from a specified area in which the dwelling house of the person subject to the emergency protection order is located. 
Where the court issues an emergency protection order with the provision of an exclusion order they can also attach to this order the power to arrest if any of the condition defined within the protection order are breached.