Emergency Protection Orders (EPO) - Section 44 Children Act 1989
These orders are obtained from the court to ensure the short term safety of a child. Any person can make an application including a local authority or other authorised body. The court will only make the order if they are satisfied that there is reasonable cause to believe that the child is likely to suffer significant harm if:
1) he is not removed to accommodation provided by the local authority or
2) he does not remain in the place where he is currently being accommodated e.g. in hospital.
A local authority has to show that their enquiries under section 47 of the Children Act 1989 are being frustrated and access to the child is required urgently. An authorised person, which includes an officer of the NSPCC, will have to show the same urgency in a situation where their enquiries are being frustrated.
In exceptional circumstances a local authority can apply for an EPO without notice to the parents.
In circumstances where the applicant believes that the child will be safe in the interim period, an application for an EPO will be made on notice to the parents. This gives them an opportunity to come to the court and advise the court of their views and plans to safeguard the child. When the court makes an EPO, the court can also make an exclusion requirement under s44 A where:
a) there is reasonable cause to believe that if a person is excluded from the home, the child will cease to suffer or cease to be likely to suffer significant harm and
b) another person living in the home is able and willing to give the child the care which it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give him and consents to the exclusion.
The exclusion order may require a person to leave the home where he is living with the child, prevent him from entering the home or exclude him from a defined area. A power of arrest may be added to the order.
An emergency protection order is only a short order granted for up to a maximum of 8 days but can be extended for a further seven days. The order grants the applicant parental responsibility but only permits him to take such action as is reasonably required to safeguard the welfare of the child.
The court can give directions it considers appropriate with respect to the contact the child is to have with any named person or any medical or psychiatric examination or assessment of the child under S44 (6). If the child is of sufficient understanding to make an informed decision he may refuse to submit to the examination or other assessments.