About the Family Law Week blog

The Family Law Week Blog is a companion site to Family Law Week. It complements the news, cases and articles published on Family Law Week with additional comment and coverage of the wider aspects of family law.

The Blog is edited by Jacqui Gilliatt, of 4 Brick Court and Lucy Reed, of St Johns Chambers.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Removal of children at birth without notice to the parents

I understand that at the Nagalro conference yesterday a Judge may have expressed the view that the judgment in Re L applied only to the facts in that case and that the threshold for removing a child under an ICO had not increased. I have never argued that the threshold has increased, but it is my view that the courts are now, and should, consider the question of removal very seriously and should not go there unless it is justified as set out in Re L. I am not sure I quite understand why Re L should be restricted to its facts, however.

In an earlier post I set out some examples of the sort of cases where removal will be justified. The Guardian today covers a removal at birth case . Baby D was born this month to a mother who is in prison for threatening her small daughter with a knife. Social workers from Bury Metropolitan Borough Council were afraid that if the baby's mother knew the council planned to put it up for adoption she might kill the child at birth. She had told a social worker that her children would be better off dead than in the council's care. Mr Justice Munby said: "It goes without saying that a newborn baby in the first seconds or moments of life is exceptionally vulnerable and that a distraught mother, who has already demonstrated her capacity to threaten violence to her children, would be capable of causing catastrophic injury to the child within a matter of moments." An immediate risk of really serious harm or what? Of course, this must depend on the alleged facts being true.

Another interesting point about the case is that the local authority was granted an EPO without any notice to the parents and without them being aware of the local authority plans to remove. The Judge had "no hesitation whatever in saying that in the highly unusual circumstances of this case that very exceptional step is, as it seems to me, entirely justified and indeed imperatively required in the interests ... of the as yet unborn child".

See here for the full judgment .


john said...

I think D & Ors V the United Kingdom is relevant from an Article 3 perspective.

David Reynolds said...

The Judge was obviously right. the Threshold has never been the issue in the removal cases, all the decisions have been on the second (welfare) stage that comes after threshold.

I would also agree that Re L is on its own facts. Re L claims to derive its authority from the preceding Court of Appeal judgement but misrepresents it.