Thursday 17 January 2019

Appeal for injunction against adoption of baby removed from Ireland without parents being given chance to object

Stock picture
Stock picture

Tim Healy

The Court of Appeal (CoA) has been asked to grant an injunction preventing an English county council from proceeding with the adoption of a baby who was removed from Ireland without the parents having been given the opportunity to object.

It follows strong criticism earlier this month by the appeal court of the conduct of both Irish and English social workers involved in the removal of the baby and two siblings last September following legal proceedings taken here by the English council with the co-operation of the Child and Family Agency (CFA).

Mr Justice Gerard Hogan, on behalf of the CoA, said Irish social workers must "stop immediately" the practice of acting in conjunction with their UK counterparts in seeking the return to Britain of children at the centre of care proceedings without the parents' knowledge of that application.

If it does not stop, social workers could face contempt of court proceedings, he said.

It was a practice which had grown up in recent times whereby UK social workers travel to Ireland for to arrange the return of children by applying to the courts here without notice to the parents "thus depriving them of any opportunity" to challenge the proceedings, he said. 

The judge said it was difficult "to avoid the impression that the child care system provided for under the Child Care Act 1991 is being circumvented for this purpose".

The practice of removing children without serving notice of the court proceedings on the parents is "a wholly unlawful one".

He was commenting during an appeal over the three children, all under six, who were brought by their British parents to Ireland on September, with the youngest having born only two days previously.

The two oldest children had been the subject of interim care orders in the UK and, three days after they left, all three were made wards of court by the English High Court.

Concerns had previously been expressed by the social services unit of their local county council about the standards of hygiene within the home, the parental capacity to manage the children, domestic violence in previous relationships and parental substance abuse, Mr Justice Hogan said.  

The same day as the wardship orders were obtained in the UK, the English social services contacted their counterparts here in the CFA to say they had also obtained the requisite orders that the children be returned.

The CFA, on September 11, made an unannounced visit to the home of the family here and, Mr Justice Hogan said, it was important to note that "nothing of concern" was found.  

The District Court here granted interim care orders, with the consent of the parents, to the CFA which meant the children were placed in foster care.  The parents were told by the CFA the UK social services would apply to have the English court order that they be returned by means of making an application for an enforcement order to the High Court here, without notice to the parents.

On September 21, the High Court, on an ex-parte (one-side only represented) application by the English county council, made that order.

The three children were handed over by the CFA to English social workers at the Rosslare ferryport and brought back to the UK.   The parents were told afterwards as the English social workers believe they were a flight risk.

The parents appealed the ex-parte order to the Irish High Court but were ruled out of time by two days.   As a result, they then went to the three-judge Court of Appeal (CoA).

Mr Justice Hogan said the English county council, which did not participate in the CoA hearing for financial reasons, said it did not intend to return the children "irrespective of the outcome of the appeal to this court".  

The English council also began moves to have the youngest child adopted in the UK.

On Wednesday, lawyers for the parents asked the CoA to grant an injunction preventing the UK council for taking any further steps in those adoption proceedings.

Following arguments from lawyers on behalf of the parents and the Attorney General, who was before the court in an amicus curiae (assistant to the court) capacity, the CoA said it would give its decision as soon as possible given the  urgency of the situation.   The UK council was not represented.

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