A High Court Judge has allowed a couple to keep a child which they were deceived into thinking was their own.
Mrs Justice Hogg first concluded that the child, a two-year-old girl, and the woman were the victims of a fraudulent fertility sham, but then went on to support the continuation of the couple’s care of the child as guardians. The decision came from a private High Court hearing in London.
It comes at a time of controversy surrounding widespread scams of a similar nature in Nigeria (whose government’s lack of strict policing has made it a hotspot for fraud). In a culture which places almost an obligation on pregnancy, many women become desperate for fertility treatment. Fraudulent companies then charge high prices for such treatment, inject their patients with pregnancy-imitating drugs and send them to fake consultants who reassure them of their progress.
When the alleged due-date arrives, it is thought that every patient is told that a C-section is necessary and, while they are anaesthetised, are given an unwanted baby as their own. 2011 even saw a case of a Nigerian “baby factory” with 32 women being offered £100 for their babies.
In the latest case overseen by Hogg J, the woman paid £4,500 to a treatment centre in Lagos and believed to have given birth after undergoing “herbal treatment.” Having moved to the UK eight years ago, the couple returned briefly for the pregnancy before bringing the child, whose identity cannot be disclosed, back into the UK. Subsequent DNA tests showed no relation between the couple and the child.
At first, the couple were the accused rather than being seen as the victims. Social services in the London Borough of Hillingdon were said to have become “deeply suspicious” of the couple’s story. The matter was investigated by the police and, although the couple were not tried, Mrs Justice Hogg was called upon to assess the case.
Her verdict was that the child had been “removed from her mother” without the child or the couple realising. After this, social workers sanctioned the couple becoming guardians of the girl.
Hogg J’s view on these instances support the decision made in 2012 concerning a similar case where a couple paid £6,000 and returned from Nigeria with a small girl. Mr Justice Coleridge, the judge at the time, ruled that the couple could keep the baby, despite being unrelated.