Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to report and analyse a recent case, in which the safeguarding procedure adopted by one local authority was criticised by the High Court. It also seeks to identify the key lessons to be learned. Design/methodology/approach - The paper considers the judgment handed down in the case, sets out its key points and seeks to place the proceedings, and the concerns they reveal, in their context. Findings - In its conduct of one safeguarding enquiry, West Sussex County Council acted unlawfully, in a manner that breached natural justice and a legitimate expectation to which it had itself given rise. The case raises a number of concerns. It is also consistent with a suspicion that some practitioners, and even some judges, have begun to express: that on occasions, the safeguarding process itself might constitute a form of abuse. Originality/value - This is believed to be the first time the case has been analysed in such detail, and also the first time it has been placed in the context of those concerns.