British baby siezed in Ireland after parents flee social workers over
A three-day-old girl is at the centre of an emotional custody battle
after a British couple fled to Ireland to have their baby only to have
it siezed by social workers in the Republic.
By Andrew Alderson, Chief Reporter
Published: 9:00PM BST 06 Jun 2009
On the advice of an MP, the heavily-pregnant woman and her partner
gathered belongings into their car and left the UK for Ireland last
week after British social workers told them their child would be taken
into care within hours of birth.
However, within 24 hours of the birth of their daughter on Thursday,
weighing 7 lbs 10 ozs at Wexford General Hospital, the baby was
instead seized by Irish social workers in the town. Tomorrow her
parents must begin what is likely to be a lengthy legal battle in
Ireland for their right to bring up the child. It is understood that
social workers may seek to have her adopted.
The couple have already had their first two daughters taken into care
in Britain, and later adopted against their wishes, following an
incident in which one of the girls was found to have been hurt.
Although the parents were later cleared of any offence, their children
were never returned and they have remained under the scrutiny of
They were advised by John Hemming, an MP and an expert in family law,
that they were unlikely to get a fair hearing at a British court. He
put them in touch with a contact in Ireland, where they hoped they
would be outside the jurisdiction of the British family courts. But
the Wexford hospital learned about the family's troubled past when
they contacted a hospital in Essex to obtain the pregnant woman's
Mr Hemming, the Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley, said: "I
am embarrassed that I have to say to people that they won't get a fair
hearing in the family courts in England and Wales, and the best thing
for people facing removal of their child at birth is to emigrate." He
still believes the couple are likely to get a fairer hearing in
Ireland than England in what may prove to be a test case.
The couple cannot be named in order to protect the identity of their
baby and their two other children, who were taken into care in 2005,
one aged two, the other newborn.
In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Telegraph, they said they
were distraught by the events of this weekend. Speaking after they saw
their then day-old baby driven away to go to a foster carer, the
tearful father said: "We are completely devastated. We have done
nothing wrong and yet we have lost our baby."
Speaking before the birth, the couple explained why they had gone to
Ireland, where they had considered they were safe. "This has been a
difficult decision but we are not prepared to lose another child. It's
heartbreaking being without my other daughters - I think about them
every day. This has all been very stressful but I just have to be
strong," said the mother, aged 27.
"We had a meeting with social services [in Essex] who told us as soon
as our daughter was born they would take her into 'temporary' foster
care while they did assessments. They said that she would be at
significant risk of harm. They said, if necessary, they would get an
emergency protection order."
The father, 35 and a former serviceman, said: "I am very angry. I
fought for my country but now I have been forced to leave it. We are
not baby factories for these people just so they can get their quotas
In 2000, Tony Blair set a target for a 50 per cent increase in
adoptions nationwide to reduce the time children spent in foster care.
Councils were offered cash bonuses totalling £36 million for hitting
their goals. But once a child is adopted, he or she can never be
returned, even if the natural parents are later cleared of any
The father added: "We have basically sold everything to get the money
to move to Ireland. Under family law in England, you are guilty until
proven innocent - and you can never prove your innocence."
The couple, who had been living in a rented flat in Essex, had a
meeting with social services, the police, health workers and a
solicitor nine days ago. Southend-on-Sea social services intervened
after an anonymous tip-off that the couple were living in the area and
had previously had their two daughters taken into care by Bromley
The two daughters were taken into care because they were considered
"at risk", after the mother took the older girl to see a doctor, who
diagnosed that she had had been sexually abused. The couple insist
that if anyone abused their daughter, the culprit must have been a
babysitter or a member of the extended family, and that the incident
occurred without their knowledge.
After a police inquiry, the Crown Prosecution Service decided to take
no action against them. The couple now have a framed seven-by-five-
inches photograph of their two daughters in their hotel room in
Ireland. They also have a "memory box" for each child, now aged five
and three, in which they put birthday and Christmas cards, and other
The couple hope their daughters will choose to try to get in contact
with them when they are adults. The father, who is the biological
father of the younger adopted daughter but not the older one, also has
two older children from a previous relationship.
The couple have been together for more than five years and plan to
marry in September. Last week they packed some belongings into five
black bin bags, loaded them into their car and drove to Fishguard,
Pembrokeshire, to take the ferry to Rosslare, County Wexford. They
have rented a three-bedroom flat in Ireland and intend to build a new
life in the country.
The father was a Senior Aircraftsman in the RAF for four years before
working as a doorman, dustman and driver. He has recently been on
incapacity benefit, after being injured in a car accident. The mother,
who had never been abroad before arriving in Ireland, has worked as a
carer for the elderly and hopes to return to work. Mr Hemming, who has
successfully campaigned for greater openness in the family courts,
said: "I don't blame this couple for being angry. In England and
Wales, however, we have a system that is obsessed with adoption."
Mr Hemming said that of cases in 2007 where a local authority applied
for and pursued a care order, only 0.27 per cent had the application
rejected. "We need to take a look at the way the family courts system
operates because we need to stop the Baby Ps [the boy abused and
killed in Haringey, north London] happening, while also allowing
people in England and Wales to raise families without the fear or
arbitrary intervention based on inadequate evidence."
Paul Greenhalgh, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council's Corporate Director
for Children and Learning, said: "We are committed to making plans
that are in children's best interests but we do not comment on
individual social care cases."
A spokesman for Bromley council said: "In accordance with national
procedures, the local authority informed the other council involved of
previous child protection concerns in this case. Based on this
information that council would have formulated its own child
A spokesman for Wexford county council was unavailable for comment