Friday 20 October 2017

HSE took away our children on basis of hearsay, court told

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

THE parents of children taken into state care have claimed that they were removed from them on the basis of "hearsay" without any safeguards.

The High Court has adjourned its hearing of an "urgent" action by a couple who are challenging the legality of orders under which all of their children have been taken into care.

The children were taken into care last year following what High Court judge Mr Justice Gerard Hogan described as "very serious allegations" against the parents.

All of the children are subject to full care orders. But their parents, who deny the allegations, argue that the orders are invalid and unconstitutional.

Mr Justice Hogan put the case back until April 9 because he wanted "a full picture" of what occurred in the District Court last September when the HSE secured emergency care orders concerning the children.

Barrister Berenice McKeever, for the parents, told the High Court that the case was not equivalent to wardship proceedings and said that hearsay was not acceptable in a dispute between the rights of parties.

"All I can find is hearsay, upon hearsay upon hearsay with no safeguards," said Ms McKeever who said the parents were "greatly upset" that the case had been adjourned.

In reply, Mr Justice Hogan said that while he wished that "we all lived in an ideal world" and "in an ideal legal system" it was important in the context of this case that he have a transcript of the evidence given at the District Court.

Sanctions

It was also important to have the District Court judge's reasons for making the care orders.

Mr Justice Hogan directed that all parties in the case be given copies of the transcript, but warned that any dissemination of that information to third parties would result in "the most serious of sanctions".

The case is being partly heard in public, but the media and public have been excluded for the airing of sensitive reports relating to the allegations.

The case arises after the District Court last September granted an application by the HSE for emergency care orders concerning the children.

Interim care orders were later made and now all the children are subject to full care orders, dating from January last, which extend into next month.

After the parents went to the High Court, Mr Justice Hogan directed an inquiry under Article 40 of the Constitution into the legality of the orders which the HSE argued last week were valid.

Last week the High Court heard that the "real issue", given the very serious allegations against the parents, was whether Article 42.5 came into play.

Article 42.5 provides, in exceptional cases, where parents fail in their duty towards their children, the State as guardian of the common good shall endeavour to supply the place of the parents with due regard for the rights of the child.

Irish Independent

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