By Daily Mail Reporter
Victory for father after autistic son’s 12-month ordeal in the clutches of social workers
A father wept yesterday as a judge vindicated his crusade to free his autistic son from a year-long ordeal in the clutches of social workers.
Mark Neary was praised for refusing to give up on 21-year-old Steven who was ‘unlawfully’ kept from his family by heavy-handed council officials.
Steven had only gone into care for three days to give his father a chance to recover from flu, but social workers flagged up the young man’s behaviour as ‘challenging’ and decided to keep him permanently.
He was upset at being parted from his father, and had a habit of tapping people on the shoulder to attract their attention. Absurdly, Steven’s shoulder-tapping was recorded in the respite centre’s daily log as a series of ‘assaults’.
To 52-year-old Mr Neary’s horror, he was informed his son was not allowed to return to his family home in North-West London but would instead be placed in a care home 150 miles away in Wales.
Steven would have languished there indefinitely had it not been for Mr Neary’s fierce determination that the system would not be allowed to steal his son. They were finally reunited last December, a full year after social workers had tried to rip the family apart.
Yesterday a judge applauded Mr Neary’s fortitude in facing down an army of officials. Mr Justice Peter Jackson, sitting in the Court of Protection at the High Court, also criticised Hillingdon social services for ‘turning a deaf ear’ to the family’s plight, adding that had Mr Neary been a lesser parent, his son ‘would have faced a life in public care that he did not want and does not need’.
He said Mr Neary could be ‘proud of the way he has stood up for his son’s interests’. Mr Justice Jackson concluded that the council had breached Steven’s human rights by keeping him away from home.
Outside the court in London, Hillingdon social services’ director Linda Sanders apologised and accepted that father and son had been ‘let down’.
Mr Neary, who works as a counsellor, declared himself ‘relieved, tearful, satisfied,’ and said the ruling was ‘fantastic’. He added: ‘I knew Steven should be at home because I know Steven. But there was always more of them than there was of me.
He praised the Press for reporting his son’s case, which would normally have been shrouded in the secrecy of the family courts system.
The judge also condemned council chiefs for trying to spin their way out of trouble by smearing the family in circulating a three-page ‘media briefing note’ that created a ‘particularly unfair and negative picture’ of Steven. He branded it a ‘sorry document’ full of inaccurate information.
The family’s ordeal began in December 2009 when Mr Neary, who earlier in the year had separated from his wife Julie, had flu and asked the council for help with his son for a few days until he recovered.
Mr Neary got his son back last December after winning an interim court order. After a full hearing in May, the judge reserved judgment until yesterday. The judge said: ‘Hillingdon had no lawful basis for keeping Steven away from his family.
‘It acted as if it had the right to make decisions about Steven, and by a combination of turning a deaf ear and force majeure, it tried to wear down Mark Neary’s resistance, stretching its relationship with him to almost breaking point.’
Last night at his home, Mr Neary said: ‘Every day since Steven has come back, he asks me if he has to go back into care. Every day I’ve had to reassure him that he won’t.’