BRITISH mothers-to-be are giving birth in Ireland to avoid their newborn babies being taken into care and placed for adoption.
At least 40 expectant mothers fleeing social workers in England and Wales have given birth in Irish maternity hospitals in recent months. Other families have brought their young children to Ireland to avoid them being taken into care in the UK.
Unlike Ireland, children taken into care in the UK can be placed for adoption, resulting in British parents "forum shopping" in countries such as Ireland to prevent children being removed from their families.
On Friday, High Court judge Mr Justice George Bermingham will deliver a key ruling in a case where the family of a child born in Ireland – who is now in the care of the HSE – has contested the transfer of the case involving the child back to England and Wales.
Under a European law known as the Brussels II convention, proceedings involving children are generally dealt with in the country where a child lives.
The HSE has argued, in two previous cases where children were brought into care shortly after their mothers gave birth here, that it is the UK rather than the Irish courts that should be dealing with the infants under Brussels II.
The HSE has also argued that it is in the newborns' best interests to return to England and Wales.
In one case, a baby boy was taken into care by the HSE after the Irish hospital where he was born alerted social workers as the parents were evasive about their circumstances.
After contact with UK social services, it emerged that the woman had had a child taken into care and adopted nine years ago when she was in prison.
The mother had a history of mental health problems, self-harming, drug abuse and drug dealing, according to a detailed case history published on the website of the Child Care Law Reporting Project (CCLRP), directed by Dr Carol Coulter.
The father of the child had been on the UK child protection register due to injuries inflicted on children from a previous marriage. A convicted arsonist and rapist who had also assaulted his son, he is registered for life on the UK sex offenders' register.
The UK authorities had decided to ask the courts there for a temporary care order once the mother gave birth, but the couple left England and travelled to Ireland without informing social services.
The UK authorities believed the newborn should be placed in foster care and ultimately adopted. Three weeks after the baby was born, the couple returned to England, leaving the baby in the care of the HSE.
The HSE asked the High Court to transfer the case to England arguing that, under European law, the baby was a British national and his parents normally lived in the UK.
In the second case, the English mother already had two children in care and both she and the baby's father had a history of abusing alcohol and drugs.
The CCLRP was set up in November 2012 to report on childcare proceedings taken by the HSE and to analyse data drawn from those cases.