| Child taken from womb by social services after mother’s panic attack!

Child taken from womb by social services , The Telegraph.

Exclusive: Essex social services have obtained a court order against a woman that allowed her to be forcibly sedated and for her child to be taken from her womb by caesarean section.

A pregnant woman has had her baby forcibly removed by caesarean section by social workers.

Essex social services obtained a High Court order against the woman that allowed her to be forcibly sedated and her child to be taken from her womb.

The council said it was acting in the best interests of the woman, an Italian who was in Britain on a work trip, because she had suffered a mental breakdown.

The baby girl, now 15 months old, is still in the care of social services, who are refusing to give her back to the mother, even though she claims to have made a full recovery.

The case has developed into an international legal row, with lawyers for the woman describing it as “unprecedented”.

They claim that even if the council had been acting in the woman’s best interests, officials should have consulted her family beforehand and also involved Italian social services, who would be better-placed to look after the child.

Brendan Fleming, the woman’s British lawyer, told The Sunday Telegraph: “I have never heard of anything like this in all my 40 years in the job.

“I can understand if someone is very ill that they may not be able to consent to a medical procedure, but a forced caesarean is unprecedented.

“If there were concerns about the care of this child by an Italian mother, then the better plan would have been for the authorities here to have notified social services in Italy and for the child to have been taken back there.”

The case, reported by Christopher Booker in his column in The Sunday Telegraph, raises fresh questions about the extent of social workers’ powers.

It will be raised in Parliament this week by John Hemming, a Liberal Democrat MP. He chairs the Public Family Law Reform Coordinating Campaign, which wants reform and greater openness in court proceedings involving family matters.

He said: “I have seen a number of cases of abuses of people’s rights in the family courts, but this has to be one of the more extreme.

“It involves the Court of Protection authorising a caesarean section without the person concerned being made aware of what was proposed. I worry about the way these decisions about a person’s mental capacity are being taken without any apparent concern as to the effect on the individual being affected.”

The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is an Italian national who come to Britain in July last year to attend a training course with an airline at Stansted Airport in Essex.

She suffered a panic attack, which her relations believe was due to her failure to take regular medication for an existing bipolar condition.

She called the police, who became concerned for her well-being and took her to a hospital, which she then realised was a psychiatric facility.

She has told her lawyers that when she said she wanted to return to her hotel, she was restrained and sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

Meanwhile, Essex social services obtained a High Court order in August 2012 for the birth “to be enforced by way of caesarean section”, according to legal documents seen by this newspaper.

The woman, who says she was kept in the dark about the proceedings, says that after five weeks in the ward she was forcibly sedated. When she woke up she was told that the child had been delivered by C-section and taken into care.

In February, the mother, who had gone back to Italy, returned to Britain to request the return of her daughter at a hearing at Chelmsford Crown Court.

Her lawyers say that she had since resumed taking her medication, and that the judge formed a favourable opinion of her. But he ruled that the child should be placed for adoption because of the risk that she might suffer a relapse.

The cause has also been raised before a judge in the High Court in Rome, which has questioned why British care proceedings had been applied to the child of an Italian citizen “habitually resident” in Italy. The Italian judge accepted, though, that the British courts had jurisdiction over the woman, who was deemed to have had no “capacity” to instruct lawyers.

Lawyers for the woman are demanding to know why Essex social services appear not have contacted next of kin in Italy to consult them on the case.

They are also upset that social workers insisted on placing the child in care in Britain, when there had been an offer from a family friend in America to look after her.

An expert on social care proceedings, who asked not to be named because she was not fully acquainted with the details of the case, described it as “highly unusual”.

She said the council would first have to find “that she was basically unfit to make any decision herself” and then shown there was an acute risk to the mother if a natural birth was attempted.

An Essex county council spokesman said the local authority would not comment on ongoing cases involving vulnerable people and children.

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| Why do judges in our family courts ignore the law?

Why do judges in our family courts ignore the law? ~ , The Telegraph.

It is a basic principle of British justice that no one should be sent to prison except in open court, so that their name can be known and why they have been jailed. But this has long been one of those basic principles that are routinely ignored in our ultra-secretive family courts.

In a parliamentary answer given by Harriet Harman in 2006, she said that some 200 people had been jailed in secret by the family courts in 2005, and that her government now wanted to open up the courts to ensure that this scandal did not continue. Last May and July, following publicity given to a case in which a woman was secretly sentenced to 12 months in prison for rescuing her father from a care home, where he was being mistreated, the new head of the Family Division of the High Court, Sir James Munby, issued guidelines reminding his fellow judges that this was against the law, as clearly restated in the Rules of the Supreme Court as long ago as 1965.

In recent years, I have come across many cases of judges continuing to break the law in this way. In one instance, a father who had already lost his two teenage sons because they were held to be “at risk of emotional abuse” from their mother, from whom he had separated, was before a judge who wanted to order the removal for adoption of his third son, aged four. When the father left the courtroom in disgust, the judge ordered his arrest for contempt.

While he was in custody, his new partner, still at home and fearful that the little boy might also be removed, panicked and took him to a secret destination. The judge summoned the father back to court to ask where they had gone. Since his partner’s flight was on the spur of the moment, the father explained, truthfully, that he had no idea. Refusing to believe him, the judge angrily sentenced him in secret to 12 months. The police tracked down the woman, who was convicted of kidnapping the boy but let off with a caution. The father was released after six months in prison, but given a penal notice forbidding him to have any further contact with his boys, all now in foster care, whom he had brought up and who loved him.

In another recent case, a couple whose son had repeatedly run away from a care home were secretly jailed for not disclosing his whereabouts. In October, months after Munby issued his guidelines, three judges in the Court of Appeal upheld their sentencing. Also last month, John Hemming MP protested that the sentencing of a woman to 28 days by another High Court judge, Mrs Justice Theis, was yet another example of “secret justice” in breach of Munby’s guidelines and the law, because, although her court had been technically “open” for the brief period of the sentencing, the case was not advertised and no one was allowed to know the woman’s name or why she was imprisoned.

It seems that Lord Justice Munby has a battle on his hands to persuade judges that it is their duty to obey the law of the land.

Judges have a duty to obey the law of the land, but this is is not always happening in the family courts

Judges have a duty to obey the law of the land, but this is is not always happening in the family courts Photo: ALAMY
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| UK: New family court guidelines won’t improve a rotten system for children!

New family court guidelines won’t improve a rotten system for children ~ , THE TELEGRAPH.

Excitable coverage was given last week to new draft guidelines issued by Sir James Munby, the judge in charge of our family courts, which it was claimed would be a groundbreaking move towards lifting the blanket of secrecy that has allowed our “child protection” system to become such a national scandal. The welcome given to Lord Justice Munby’s draft guidelines to answer “the charge that we have a system of secret and unaccountable justice” – entitled “Transparency in the Family Courts (and Court of Protection)” – came from two opposing directions. On one side, two newspapers proclaimed it as a victory for their own campaigns to open up our family courts to greater public scrutiny. On the other was one of the chief cheerleaders for the system, Sir Martin Narey, now Michael Gove’s chief adviser on childcare, who wrote an article for The Times, “Family courts don’t take enough children into care”. The new “transparency”, he argued, would enable the public to see how desperately needed is the vital work our courts and social workers are doing.

All Lord Justice Munby is proposing, however, is that all judgments in these cases should be published, unless a judge finds “compelling reasons” otherwise. Just how confusing his proposals are can be seen from comparing section 21, where he says that “public authorities and expert witnesses should be named” in all published judgments, with section 24, which says “no person other than advocates or solicitors instructing them may be identified by name or location”. So, no naming of those “expert witnesses” or local authorities.

Far more important than this seemingly glaring contradiction, however, is that all Lord Justice Munby is saying is that the outside world should be allowed to see more judgments – still entirely at the discretion of the judge. To anyone familiar with the peculiar workings of these courts, this will leave 95 per cent of what is so shocking about what goes on in them as secret as ever. Still completely hidden will be the way all the normal rules of British justice can be suspended: as in allowing judges to accept damning hearsay evidence, however absurd, without it being put to any proper test; as in how parents whose children have been taken from them are too often not allowed to challenge untruths or the tendentious opinions of “hired gun” psychologists, who may not even be qualified; as in how too many parents find themselves facing the cruellest ordeal of their lives being treated by judges and all present like criminals, without being given any proper opportunity to plead their case.

Almost nothing of the ruthlessly enforced blanket of secrecy that has allowed our family courts to become so corrupted will be affected in any way by Lord Justice Munby’s proposals. Even the judgments he wants to see published cannot be properly understood by an outsider unaware of all that has gone on in the courtroom, and how what may well be a shockingly one-sided and selective judgment was arrived at. In words I have quoted before from a disillusioned family court barrister, who spent 10 years defending in vain the right of hundreds of families to stay together, the system is so rigged against the families that it is like “seeing lambs led to the slaughter”.

One of the more unfortunate consequences of the secrecy that hides the workings of this system from public view is that it makes it so easy for its defenders, such as Sir Martin Narey, formerly head of Barnardo’s, one of the largest beneficiaries of our lucrative fostering and adoption industry, to claim, as he did again last week, that only in “a very small minority” of cases are “children wrongly taken away by the authorities”. On the contrary, all the evidence suggests to those who follow these matters closely, such as John Hemming MP, of Justice for Families, or Ian Josephs, who advises thousands of families through his Forced Adoption website, is that, since the number of children being yearly taken into state care in England and Wales has soared to nearly 30,000, those being removed from their families for no good reason now run into many thousands.

Sir Martin last week told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that it was “a myth” that “social workers and local authorities intervene unnecessarily to take children into care”. He went on to say dismissively that this “myth” had arisen only through “misunderstandings” over “attachment theory” (ie, that there is some kind of special bond between children and their parents); over “the human rights of parents” (ie, Articles 6, 8 and 10 of the Convention on Human Rights that guarantee “a fair trial”, “respect for family life” and “freedom of speech”); and “the myth that care can make things worse”.

Not the least terrifying feature of the system Sir Martin so blindly defends is the mountain of evidence to show that children taken into care can too often be subjected to physical and emotional abuse far worse than anything alleged against the parents from whom they have been removed. Of course, where fostering and adoption are genuinely necessary and work, they are admirable and can save children from a life of misery and neglect. But too often the very reverse is the case. On the very day Sir Martin was being deferentially interviewed by the Today programme, I received two more handwritten letters, smuggled out to her family from her foster home, by a bright 13-year-old girl who has now, for quite ridiculous reasons, been in state care for more than two years.

In one she wrote: “I miss you sooo much and I love you even more, I’m so sad and I don’t want to live any more, I can’t take it any more, I have so many scars, I’m so scared, Daddy, please help me! I’m so sorry I’m so scared. I should be brave!” In the second letter she writes: “I’m so scared, my heart is shattered to pieces. I love you infinity itself, and miss you infinity itself.” This is an articulate, utterly distraught girl, who was never harmed by her family, who has been repeatedly ill-treated in foster care and who has been repeatedly refused her right under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to put her own case to a court.

Her story is just a tiny part of the reality of what goes on behind that wall of secrecy that our child-protection system has erected – way beyond anything it is authorised to do by Parliament – not to protect the children, but simply to protect itself. Lord Justice Munby’s guidelines will do not a jot or tittle to change it.

Sir James Munby proposes that judgements in the family courts must be published.

Sir James Munby proposes that judgements in the family courts must be published.  Photo: BRIAN SMITH FOR THE TELEGRAPH
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