Damages win for Tim and Gina Williams - falsely suspected of abusing their children
By: Simon de Bruxelles
December 23, 2008/The Times
A couple whose three children spent two years in care because social workers wrongly believed that they were at risk of abuse have been awarded a “six-figure” sum in compensation.
Tim and Gina Williams’s son and two daughters were taken from them and placed with separate foster families. The couple, from Newport, South Wales, received an undisclosed sum yesterday in an agreed settlement at the High Court in Cardiff and were given a full written apology from Newport City Council.
The court was told that there had never been any evidence that the children, now aged 14, 11 and 9, had been abused. As a result of the social workers’ actions, the Williams missed their children’s birthdays, Christmases and their first days in new schools.
A judge completely exonerated them at the High Court in October 2006 and the children were returned to them.
The couple, who waived their right to anonymity, began a compensation claim against Newport City Council and Royal Gwent Healthcare NHS Trust soon after. Robin Tolson, QC, for the couple, said: “This settlement brings closure, at least of a kind, for Tim and Gina Williams and their children. The effect of what happened will continue to be felt for a long time but at least this now marks the end of four years spent fighting for their children and their rights before the court.”
Mr Williams, 39, and two of his children sat at the back of the court during the brief hearing.
In August 2004 Mr Williams called the police after finding his youngest daughter naked from the waist down with an 11-year-old friend. The girl was taken to hospital for a precautionary check-up and the doctor who carried out the examination claimed to have found evidence of longstanding abuse but by an adult, not an 11-year-old.
Mr Williams and his wife were told that they were under suspicion and the children were taken into care. A second doctor confirmed the evidence of abuse and the couple were restricted to supervised weekly visits to their children.
There were exonerated after a US expert in child abuse examined the evidence and disputed the claims by the British doctors, who subsequently accepted that they had been mistaken. The council conceded that the children should never have been taken from their parents on the basis of the evidence.
Giving his judgment, Judge Crispin Masterman said that the children’s names were never put on the child protection register and it was simply decided to remove them from the family home. He said that the criticisms were coupled with an acknowledgment that all professionals involved were acting for the good of the children.
“It is undoubtedly true that social services departments have in recent years operated with inadequate resources and under immense stress and run the risk of attracting equal criticism whether they remove a child or whether they do not.”
A Newport council representative said: “A settlement has now been reached which will support the children’s future. The wellbeing of the children has remained paramount throughout this case. While the local authority has offered sincere apologies to the family, our priority was always the safety of the children. The court concluded that the council acted in good faith given the strength of the medical evidence presented.
“The council, together with other members of Newport safeguarding children board, has embraced the recommendations of the multi-agency review.”
Under the terms of the settlement, the family are banned from talking about it.