A newborn baby should be taken into care immediately after birth, a High Court judge has ruled, as the mother posed a significant risk.
In A Local Authority v C. the mother had been diagnosed with paranoia and psychosis, and also had a history of drug use. Both her children had been taken into care while young – the oldest at just three weeks of age after the mother bruised his chest and injured his arms by twisting them.
Her local authority launched care proceedings after learning that the woman had fallen pregnant for a third time, saying she posed a “grave danger” to the unborn child.
In a Family Division hearing, Mrs Justice Parker noted:
“Her consultant obstetrician found a very marked deterioration in her presentation. He describes how her usually more placid demeanour has become more and more aggressive, hostile, confrontational and oppositional, during the monitoring of her pregnancy.”
“If professionals attempt to hold any form of conversation with [the mother] on a topic with arouses her emotion she becomes hostile very quickly. All the professionals who have been dealing with the mother are concerned that her mental health is currently deteriorating.”
A psychiatrist had told the court that asking the mother to hand over her child after birth could put the child at risk, she continued.
“Her consultant psychiatrist reports that it has proved impossible to have a coherent rational conversation with her. She is “very thought disordered”. The psychiatrist anticipates a struggle if the mother is asked to hand over the baby at birth. He believes that the risk to the baby when born would be high if the mother were to be allowed to hold the baby.”
The local authority sought legal permission to remove the child immediately after the birth, using “minimum force” if necessary and without telling the mother of their plans. They also asked for a declaration that the mother lacked the mental capacity to make decisions about the unborn child’s care.
Mrs Justice Parker declared:
“…this is indeed a highly exceptional and unusual case and that the history of the mother’s mental health problems, her mistreatment of her other children (and there are other assertions of ill-treatment as well as the injury to the baby), the mother’s increasing volatility, irritability and inability to accept the concerns of others and indeed her deteriorating mental health, do give rise to an imminent, serious and present danger to the child when it is born, in particular of an inadvertent injury to the child if the child is sought to be wrested from her.”
The judge continued:
“It seems to me that the only way in which that risk and danger can be guarded against is by way of an order that the baby be removed immediately upon delivery. I understand and acknowledge what a drastic step this is, how deeply distressing this will be to this mother (as it would indeed be to any mother newly delivered of a child), and I am in no doubt that she will understand what is happening to her in these circumstances. But I am persuaded, and indeed now convinced, that there is sadly no other way of safeguarding the interests of this child.”
That is not necessarily the end of the story for the mother. The Judge, who had in private practice been a renowned and highly respected children law specialist, stated “I recognise that the first moments after a child’s birth are particularly precious and can never be recovered, but nonetheless the opportunity to have her case heard at the earliest possible moment will go some way to preserving the mother’s opportunity to have a relationship with her child.”
The law however, as always could hardly be clearer. The interests of a child, including an unborn child, are paramount.
Photo by John M Kimmins under a Creative Commons licence.