A Liverpool firm has been cleared of any advertising wrongdoing over a campaign aimed at parents threatened with having their children taken away.

The Advertising Standards Authority said today that James Murray Solicitors had not breached any of its rules over the radio advertisement.

The ad had said: ‘I’m James Murray. And what’s more frightening than a social worker at your door to take your child. The kids are screaming, your head’s banging. Ring James Murray Solicitors, you need a friend, someone to speak up for you, a tough lawyer.’

A complainant, who worked in children’s safeguarding, alleged that the ad portrayed social workers being intent on taking children away from their families, and challenged whether it distressed the audience without justifiable reason and was irresponsible.

The firm said it wanted to make parents aware they could seek legal help and obtain financial assistance through legal aid if their children were removed. The ad illustrated how parents might face a difficult situation when child protection services were about to take their children, and the firm cited data from the charity Family Rights Group which showed that 32,000 children were taken away by social workers in 2019.

The firm also pointed out that its senior partner had significant past experience as a social worker in a deprived area of Merseyside and had to make ‘place of safety’ decisions.

The radio ad had been broadcast for several years and this was the first complaint that had been received about its portrayal of social workers. The term ‘frightening’ was used to illustrate the prospect of children being removed, rather than describe the behaviour or attitude of social workers.

The watchdog said the advertisement took a ‘strong creative approach’ but was proportionate to the seriousness of the scenario and was a realistic portrayal of how a parent would feel. It added: ‘While we acknowledged that the way the scenario was presented might make some people feel uncomfortable we did not consider that it was likely to cause unjustifiable distress.’