High Court rules in favour of couple scammed by fertility clinic

Family|Family Law|News|May 15th 2013

StethoscopeA UK couple have been declared innocent of any wrongdoing by the High Court after they fell victim to a fertility clinic scam.

In the second case of its kind presided over by Mr Justice Coleridge, the couple had been referred to the Miracle of God Fertility Clinic in Port Harcourt, Nigeria after eight years of unsuccessful fertility treatment. They travelled to the country and paid £12,000 for treatment, after which the woman was informed that she was pregnant.

When they returned to the UK, the woman’s GP could not detect her pregnancy but the couple accepted the clinic’s assurances that her pregnancy could not be detected due to the type of fertility treatment the clinic had used.

Later the couple returned to Nigeria and where the woman “gave birth”, undergoing a painful procedure after she was presented with a baby still attached to its umbilical cord.

They then came back to the UK.

When the woman took the baby to her GP, he, however, contacted the police and social services because he knew the woman had not been pregnant. DNA testing made it clear that the boy was not theirs and he was placed in foster care under an interim (temporary) care order.

At a fact-finding hearing, held to try and establish whether the couple had been aware of the deception, the judge concluded that they were “completely duped and entirely innocent”.

He noted that parents’ reaction when informed that the child had not been theirs:

“It was one of complete and genuine disbelief and of course huge upset.”

Mr Justice Coleridge added:

“Gullible they may well have been, dishonest they most certainly were not. They had no inkling of the scam in which they were involved and the light only dawned after the production of the DNA tests. That is the conclusion to which the police and the Local Authority each independently have come and I think they are right.”

The judge ended by noting the couple had been represented on a pro bono basis because the Legal Services Commission had not made a decision on funding. He said:

“This is the second time when a very difficult, care case involving quasi parents has not attracted in my judgment the speedy decision making that one would expect of the Legal Services Commission.  Once again, the court has had to depend upon the pro bono services of the Bar….That is simply not good enough in the circumstances of a case of this complexity and I really do hope that the Legal Services Commission will speed up their processes, so that people facing the sort of difficult hearings that these parties have had to face can do so with proper legal representation and advice.”

Photo by jasleen_kaur via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence

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