The local authority, or any other person may apply in an emergency to a justice of the peace for authorisation to remove a child to a place of safety or, to prevent a child from being moved from the place where he or she is being accommodated Section 61 (1).
In addition, a police officer, acting in accordance with Section 61 (5), may remove a child to a place of safety without authorisation.
Section 61(4) requires that the child must be in, or be on the way to the place of safety within twelve hours of the authorisation by the Justice of the Peace otherwise the authorisation ceases to have effect. Sections 61(4), (5), and (6) provide that authorisation last for a maximum of twenty four hours from being granted by the Justice of the Peace, or from removal to a place of safety by the police. The further protection of the child requires to be addressed through a child protection order.
Social work staff should only consider approaching a Justice of the Peace for authorisation after taking all reasonable steps to secure an audience before a Sheriff for the purposes of applying for a child protection order. Police officers will only invoke Section 61 (5) when it is not practical to apply to a sheriff and the need for immediate action is indicated.
The authorisation and what it may do
An authorisation granted by a Justice of the Peace may:
- require the child to be produced to the applicant
- prevent any person from removing the child from the place where he or she is then being accommodated
- authorise the applicant to remove the child to a place of safety and keep him or her there until the authorisation expires.
- give discretion as to contact with relevant person (Rule 16 The Emergency Child Protection Measures (Scotland) Regulations )
The reporter may direct the release of the child (Children(Scotland) Act 1995 Section 61 (8) )
When authorisation is granted, social work staff must take all practicable steps to notify relevant persons (as defined at Section 93 (2) (b)), any other person with whom the child was residing at the time and the reporter specifying:
- the steps taken to implement the grant of authorisation
- the place of safety to which the child is being taken or where he or she is being accommodated (unless under Regulation 10, The Emergency Child Protection Measures (Scotland) Regulations 1996, the social worker notifying the persons specified above considers it necessary to withhold this information in order to safeguard the welfare of the child)
- the reasons for granting the authorisation, any other steps being taken to safeguard the welfare of the child (unless under Regulations 1996), if the social worker notifying the persons specified above considers it necessary to withhold this information in order to safeguard the welfare of the child).
An application for an emergency authorisation is a serious step involving direct and urgent intervention by the local authority to remove a child to a place of safety, or to prevent him/her from being removed from a specified place.
Before deciding on this route to protect a child, the local authority must be satisfied that:
- alternative options for action to protect the child have been taken into account
- the conditions for making a child protection order are satisfied
- all practical steps to secure an audience before a sheriff have been taken.
When an authorisation is granted, or a police officer acts within Section 61(5), social work staff should move urgently to make an application for a child protection order to a sheriff – unless new information has come to light, or a change in circumstances indicates otherwise. An emergency authorisation ceases to have effect if not implemented within 12 hours of being granted.
If an emergency authorisation is not implemented within 12 hours, the team leader must arrange for the Justice of the Peace to be notified immediately and for notice to be given to the same persons as specified above i.e. any relevant person and the reporter.