Duncan Lewis

Romford Office

Crime and Civil cases

house 40 staff

A ruling which would set precedence to social workers before removing children from their mothers

Date: (17 August 2012)    |    

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A London High Court judge has ruled that the state officials have violated the human rights of a mother and child when the baby was taken into care by the social workers, within hours of her birth, while the mother was still under the influence of anesthesia post operation.

The mother, 26, had been given the powerful opiate morphine to recover from life-saving surgery after a difficult labour.

Coventry City Council social workers, who hours earlier been told by the mother that she wanted to keep the baby girl, was asked to consent to have the child taken away while she was still under the influence of the drug.

The court heard that the troubled mother, from Coventry, West Midlands, was still under the effects of the powerful pain-killing drug when her consent was taken to remove her baby.

The landmark ruling which would set out guidelines for the future had the judge Mr Justice Hedley saying that he had serious doubts whether the woman, who feared that she would be having an allergic reaction to the morphine, could have been capable of giving her consent at the time.

The judge said the council had admitted that social workers should not have sought the mothers agreement when they did and that the baby's removal from the post-natal ward 'was not a proportionate response' to any risk to the child's welfare.

He added that the council, which has started an internal investigation into what happened, accepted that it breached the mother and baby's rights to respect for family life, enshrined in Article 8 of the Human Rights Convention.

Coventry had agreed to pay damages to the mother, as 'just satisfaction' for the breach of her rights, and she has asked that the undisclosed sum be spent on giving her therapy.

The judge said the mother had endured a harrowing childhood and adolescence which left her not only vulnerable but 'devoid of parenting instinct or intuition'.

She has three other children, who have also been taken into care and placed for adoption. The court heard that she had 'previous unhappy relationships with men'.

The judge ruled there was an 'overwhelming' case that the welfare of the baby girl also demanded that she be placed with an adoptive family.

Giving guidance the judge said that the social workers needed to be cautious when asking parents to remove their child post their giving birth, especially when there was no immediate danger to the child.