Judge orders social workers to hand back newborn child
Daily Mail - January 31, 2008
Camden Journal - September 06, 2007
Guardian UK - April 19, 2006
BBC Wales TV - April 04, 2005
Guardian UK - October 05, 2005
Daily Mail - August 22, 2005
BBC News - May 26, 2005
SWEP - November 15, 2005
SWEP - October 24, 2003
SWEP - October 16, 2003
BBC Wales TV - June 13, 2003
SWEP - June 10, 2003
Daily Mail Thursday, January 31, 2008
snatchers: Judge orders social workers to hand back newborn child taken from
hospital at 4am
By DAVID WILKES
A newborn baby
was illegally snatched from its mother by social workers in the early hours of
Officials claimed the 18-year-old mother was unfit to care for the child
because of mental health problems.
But hours later a High Court judge ordered the infant to be returned
immediately, saying the social workers had acted beyond their powers.
Mr Justice Munby told the officials that they "should have known better".
The troubling case follows complaints from parents that social workers have
taken their children for adoption without good reason, and suggestions that
families are being broken up to meet bureaucratic targets.
Last night campaigners welcomed the ruling and praised the mother's lawyers
for their prompt action to reunite the baby with its mother.
The child, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was born healthy at 2am
Later Ian Wise, appearing for the mother, referred to as "G", told the High
Court in London that the child was taken from her at about 4am without her
The child was removed after staff at the hospital were shown a "birth plan"
prepared by local authority social services.
The plan said the mother, who had a troubled childhood and suffers from mental
health problems, was to be separated from the child, and no contact allowed
without supervision by social workers.
In his ruling, the judge ordered that the local social services authority and
NHS trust "take the necessary steps to reunite mother and baby forthwith".
The mother now faces a legal battle to remain with her child. Mr Wise said she
intends to fight to keep her baby. The judge described the situation as "most
unfortunate". He said no baby can be removed simply "as the result of a
decision taken by officials in some room".
Removal can be lawful only if a police officer is taking action to protect the
child, or there is a court order in place.
judge said doctors and midwives at the hospital could not have been expected
to understand this and acted as they did when faced with "a bit of paper" with
the birth plan.
He said: "On the face of it, what was done was without lawful authority. The
professionals involved in this case should know better.
"You cannot remove children, short of immediate murderous intent (situations
where a child is in immediate danger), except by lawful means, which means
either by a police officer or court.
The judge added: "There is no suggestion in the documents shown to me so far
that the mother is posing a risk of exposing the child to immediate physical
attack and physical harm."
The ruling was made shortly after midday, and mother and baby were reunited 46
Last night the mother's solicitor Stuart Luke, from the firm Bhatia Best, said
she faces the prospect of an application by social services for an interim
care order, which he said would be vigorously contested. It is likely to be
heard this morning before local magistrates.
Adoption targets were brought in seven years ago, when Tony Blair was trying
to persuade social workers to find adoptive homes for more children.
The then Prime Minister set targets to raise the number of children being
adopted by 50 per cent to 5,400 every year.
He promised millions of pounds to councils that managed to achieve the
targets. Some have already received more than £2million for successful
Campaigners say the number of babies under a month old being taken into care
and then adopted has risen from 500 in 1997 to 1,300 a year. Last year a BBC
investigation discovered more than 100 claims of miscarriages of justice by
parents whose children were taken by social workers for adoption.
The Radio Four Face the Facts programme quoted social workers who admitted
they are under pressure to take children because of Whitehall targets to
Last night Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming, who has been campaigning against
inappropriate adoption of babies, said: "Councils are in a big rush to take
babies at a very early stage because it is makes it easier to break the
attachment that naturally forms between baby and mother over time.
"This case illustrates again how the system is not working in the interests of
the children or the families, it's working in the interests of the
"What's unique about this case is not the unlawful removal of a child, but
that some lawyers have sufficient backbone to make the right application to
the court to have the child returned to its mother."
Mr Hemming added: "There are financial rewards - a fund of about £35million -
for getting children adopted. Admittedly, it has been proposed that adoption
targets are scrapped on April 1, but clearly there are still problems."
Layton Bevan, co-founder of Families and Social Services Information Team, a
support group for families frustrated by social services' actions, said: "It's
obscene the way some social services can take children away from parents
without the proper paperwork.
"We are aware of this happening in hundreds of cases a year through the sheer
incompetence and organisational failure of social services departments.
"If they need to meet adoption targets they will do it by taking children from
"Worryingly, the social services involved seem to have no accountability and
ride roughshod over the law and the parents and children involved."