Thursday 19 October 2017

Day-old baby is taken from mother by HSE

Ray Managh and Aodhan O'Faolain

A DAY-OLD baby was taken from its mother after gardai surrounded a house in a border county on the instructions of HSE care workers, the High Court has been told.

Mr Justice Sean Ryan will hear legal argument today as to the lawfulness of the child's detention.

Barrister Michael O'Higgins SC, counsel for the baby and its mother, told the court that the child was born at 8.17am on Wednesday morning and by tea-time on Thursday it was the subject of an emergency care application by the HSE in the District Court.

The identity of the baby or its parents, or publication of any detail that might lead to identifying any of them, was banned by the court, which heard there were "certain existing allegations" against the father which were of concern to the HSE.

Mr O'Higgins said the baby was now in the custody of the HSE and he was asking the court to direct an inquiry into the lawfulness of that custody.

He said the issue to be decided by the High Court was whether there was a deficiency in the procedure adopted in the District Court hearing.

The mother already had one teenage child in the care of the HSE and the father had two teenage children in its care, he told the court.

Mr O'Higgins said this pregnancy was monitored by the HSE. A conference was held by the HSE on September 10, at which it was considered that the baby might be at risk following birth. The HSE took legal advice on protection issues.

At 8.17am on Wednesday, the mother gave birth to a boy and by 5.15pm the family solicitor had received an indication that an emergency care application would be made before a District Court judge.

The solicitor immediately instructed barrister Mairead Carey to act on behalf of the mother and baby who left the hospital on Thursday morning and went to a friend's house.

"A large number of gardai surrounded the house and went inside and announced to those inside that they were under house arrest, causing significant distress to the mother," Mr O'Higgins told the court.

Following negotiations between the family solicitor and gardai, the garda presence surrounding the house, which consisted of two squad cars and a garda van, was reduced to one car.

Shortly afterwards a garda application was made to the District Court, which had been told of garda concern about a risk to the child's safety.

"There is a suspicion that this was enjoined retrospectively to justify the garda presence at the house and the house arrest," Mr O'Higgins said.

He explained that the District Court judge, after hearing evidence from four HSE witnesses, had not made any order but said he was satisfied a risk existed and that it was a matter for the High Court.

No complaint was directed against the mother of the child, but against her partner, a man she had recently married.

Mr O'Higgins said the mother had given an undertaking that she would live with her baby separate from its father.

Judge Ryan ordered there should be an inquiry into the lawfulness of the child's detention and said he would sit in the High Court at 10am today to deal with the matter.

Irish Independent

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