Baby seized at birth after secret court ruling
PUBLISHED: 09:50 10 June 2014
A ‘DRACONIAN’ behind-closed-doors court ruling has seen a North Somerset mother and baby separated at birth – even though the mum was given no warning of the planned action or opportunity to fight the order.
The mother’s low IQ and history of mental illness prompted authorities to petition courts for the right to take her baby into care from birth.
Rare legal powers - judged ‘at the extremity of what is permissable’ under EU law - were invoked to ensure the 24-year-old mum was kept in the dark about the state’s planned intervention. The first she knew of the action was when the baby was taken into care.
A top High Court judge agreed with North Somerset Council’s ‘highly exceptional’ request for a gagging order to make certain the woman was unaware of the plans, ruling there was a real risk of harm to both child and mother if the plan was leaked.
However, with the baby now safely born and taken into care, the gagging order has been lifted and the Mercury can report on the case - but cannot reveal the names of those involved.
Judge Michael Joseph Keehan said: “I recognise the order sought by the local authority is extremely unusual.
“I am in no doubt whatsoever that the order sought by the local authority was a proportionate response to the identified risks and was essential to secure the child’s safety.
“In those circumstances 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.
“The order sought in this case by the local authority is at the extremity of what is permissible under the European Convention.
“It is only in an extreme case that such a draconian and highly exceptional course of conduct will be permitted.”
Concerns stemmed from the mother’s low IQ - rated at just 63 - and history of schizophrenia, which cast doubt on her ability to care for a child. Her health is said to have further deteriorated during pregnancy.
She has been allowed only limited supervised contact with the child.
A council spokesman said: “It would be inappropriate for us to comment in detail on an individual case such as this. Our primary concern is to ensure the welfare of the child and her mother.
“We have worked closely with the other agencies who share this priority, and will continue to do so for as long as our support is required.
“Cases such as this are rarely straightforward, and the decision on whether it is best for a child to remain with its birth parent(s) 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.”