The case of a woman whose baby daughter was forcibly removed from her womb by social services was described by human-rights groups on Sunday night as “the stuff of nightmares”.
The Italian woman was sedated and her baby delivered against her will, after Essex social services obtained a court order in August 2012 for the birth “to be enforced by way of caesarean section”.
The case, described by the woman’s lawyers as “unprecedented”, has further highlighted the controversial decisions made by the Court of Protection, which authorised the forced removal of the baby, as well as the powers afforded to social workers.
The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was visiting Britain in July last year to attend a Ryanair training course at Stansted airport in Essex when she suffered a panic attack after failing to take medication for her bipolar disorder.
Despite the woman’s mother explaining her daughter’s condition to police over the telephone from Italy, she was taken to a psychiatric hospital and sectioned under the Mental Health Act. Five weeks later, her daughter was removed from her womb without her consent.
John Hemming MP, who is campaigning for greater openness in the family courts, is set to raise the issue in Parliament this week and said he hoped the incident would “shock people out of their complacency about the corrupt practices in the family court”. He told The Independent: “I think this has a fair chance of being the worst case of human-rights abuse I’ve ever seen. She wasn’t treated as a human being.”
After the C-section, the woman, who has two other children and is divorced, was sent back to Italy without her daughter. She returned to Britain in February to request the return of her daughter, who is now 15 months old, but was told at Chelmsford Crown Court that she was to be put up for adoption in case her mother suffered a relapse.
Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, said: “At first blush this is dystopian science-fiction unworthy of a democracy like ours. Forced surgery and separation of mother and infant is the stuff of nightmares.”
A spokesman for Essex County Council said he could not comment on ongoing cases.