Social workers snatched mother's baby from her minutes after birth with no warning - because 'they thought she might kill herself if she found out what they were planning'
- First of its kind secret court decision meant mother was not told of plans
- Council feared woman might kill herself if they knew baby would be taken
- Newborn was taken last month but decision was only made public today
- Campaigners attack secrecy insisting other options should have been tried
High Court Judge Michael Joseph Keehan admitted the move was 'draconian' and 'at the extremity of what is permissible under the European Convention'
A mother had her newborn baby girl taken away by social workers without any warning following a secret court hearing.
A High Court judge made a ‘draconian’ ruling that council officials did not have to tell the 24-year-old woman of their intention to remove her child just hours after she gave birth.
This meant that the mentally-ill mother and her family had no chance to instruct lawyers to fight the plans. Critics of behind-closed-doors justice condemned the judgment as an ‘absolute scandal’.
The judge in the case, Mr Justice Keehan, admitted it was a ‘highly exceptional’ step that was ‘at the extremity’ of what the law allows.
But he ruled that North Somerset Council was not required to inform the heavily pregnant mother-to-be that it wanted to take away her baby at birth.
He said there was a ‘very real risk’ that the woman, who has schizophrenia and an IQ of just 63, could harm herself and her unborn child if she learned of social services’ plans.
The judge also imposed a gagging order banning all reporting of his ruling, which was only lifted after the little girl was taken into care.
The baby, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was born by elective caesarean section at a hospital in Bristol on May 1.
Within hours of the birth the council had been granted an emergency protection order to remove the infant by a family court judge.
The woman was placed on a separate ward in the hospital from her baby, although she was allowed to see the child under supervision with the support of her mother and grandmother.
The new mother was discharged alone on May 2. Her mental state has deteriorated so much since then that she requires treatment from the ‘crisis team’ of her local mental health trust.
Foster carers took over looking after the baby when she left hospital on May 6. North Somerset Council considered whether the baby’s grandmother would be a suitable carer, but ruled that she would not.
The judge said it was not known whether the child’s great-grandmother would put herself forward to look after her.
The High Court ruled the woman should not be told of social workers plans to take her baby after birth
The man believed to be the baby’s father did not express a view on whether or not she should be taken into care.
A spokesman for North Somerset Council said: ‘Cases such as this are rarely straightforward, and the decision on whether it is best for a child to remain with its birth parents or be taken into care is never taken without extensive consideration. The care of a child only transfers to the council when all options have been considered and with the court’s agreement.’
Explaining his reasons for allowing the council to remove the child secretly from the mother, Mr Justice Keehan said he realised it was an ‘extremely unusual’ move.
He added: ‘The order sought in this case by the local authority is at the extremity of what is permissible under the European Convention (on Human Rights). It is only in an extreme case that such a draconian and highly exceptional course of conduct will be permitted.
‘I am satisfied that if the mother were to learn of the plan to remove her child at birth there is a very real risk she would harm herself and a very, very real risk that she would cause physical harm to her baby.’
North Somerset Council refused to comment on the case but said such decisions were 'rarely straighforward'
But campaign group the Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services said the woman should have been given a chance to mount a legal defence.
President Jean Robinson said it was an ‘absolute scandal’, adding: ‘The secret hearing does not give the mother any opportunity to instruct solicitors to prevent it, or even approach solicitors or even her own family member to create an alternative.
‘There may well have been no alternative, but the problem is that was never explored. The fact that the mother only found out the moment she had given birth, it’s terrible.’
Lib Dem MP John Hemming, who has campaigned for open justice, said: ‘It is very convenient as a way of doing things for the local authority that you have a court order which says you don’t have to tell anyone what you’re doing.
‘This case is particularly extreme in not giving the mother a chance to fight back, but even if she had been warned, it’s very difficult when you’ve just given birth to build up an adequate case to challenge what the local authority says.’
This is the latest in a series of secretive High Court rulings. In one case in 2012 a judge allowed doctors to sedate Italian mother-to-be Alessandra Pacchieri to perform a caesarean section without her consent. Her baby girl was then taken into care against her wishes.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2650787/Social-workers-snatched-mothers-baby-minutes-birth-no-warning-secret-court-ruling.html#ixzz33vHVLNbC
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