An emergency protection order (EPO) is a court order to be made in an emergency where it can be shown that unless emergency action is taken, the child will be at risk of significant harm. An EPO allows but does not require, the removal of a child to accommodation or the keeping of a child where they are currently accommodated. A local authority can also apply for an EPO to obtain access to a child, where that is being unreasonably refused and it is urgent to do so when carrying out a child protection investigation.
The court, in exercising its discretion, must apply the welfare principle, ie the child’s welfare will be the court’s paramount consideration.
The court’s considerations must include:
- why it is necessary to remove the child as a matter of urgency
- whether there is any alternative way of protecting the child, for example by the alleged abuser leaving the child’s home
- whether the child’s removal can be achieved with the co-operation of their carers
An EPO should be the last and not first resort due to its serious consequences for the child. The order should be both necessary and proportionate and the least interventionist solution consistent with the child’s immediate safety.
The risk of significant harm must be assessed, and the court may make an EPO where there is reasonable cause to believe that the child is likely to suffer significant harm if:
- the child is not removed to accommodation provided by or on behalf of the applicant, or
- the child does not remain in the place in which it is being accommodated at the time of the application
The test is objective, and the court’s belief must be satisfied, ie the court has reasonable cause to believe that the child is likely to suffer significant harm