Saturday 16 December 2017

Judge delays decision on custody battle newborn baby

Ray Managh

A DAY-old baby taken from its mother by a force of gardai who surrounded a house will remain in the custody of the Health Service Executive (HSE) at least until tomorrow.

Mr Justice Sean Ryan, following a day of evidence and legal argument about reuniting the child with its mother, yesterday said that while he was conscious of the extreme urgency of the case, he was also conscious of the seriousness of the matter.

He told barrister Michael O'Higgins, senior counsel for the mother who cannot be identified, that he would give his decision on the future of the baby tomorrow at 10am in the High Court.

Judge Ryan, following a brief dispute in court over access by the mother to her baby, said that while an existing District Court order restricted access to two hours for five days a week, he hoped the mother would be allowed to see her baby for two hours today.

The baby, now four days old, was being breast fed by its mother when gardai arrived at a friend's house on Thursday and allegedly put mother and child under house arrest.

The mother told the court yesterday she had to ask a guard to leave the house while she fed her baby.

Mr O'Higgins, who appears with Mairead Carey for the 38-year-old mother, told the High Court that on Thursday, when the baby was little more than a day old, the HSE made an emergency care application to the district court and obtained an order taking it into care.

The court heard that the baby's father was a controlling type of person who bullied his wife and had in the past assaulted his wife's teenage daughter by another relationship.

A HSE witness told the court that because of a perceived risk to the baby prior to its birth there had been welfare conferences with the mother who had been aware for a number of weeks that an emergency care order might be sought immediately after the baby's birth because of a risk from the father.

Mr O'Higgins submitted yesterday that the gardai had been asked by the HSE to put the mother and child under house arrest so they would remain in the jurisdiction of the district court while it was consideration making an emergency care order.

Tim O'Leary SC, who appeared with Paul Anthony McDermott, for the HSE, said the mother had left hospital with the child in a friend's car.

The court heard that the baby and mother had been traced to the house which had been surrounded by seven gardai who had turned up in two squad cars and a van.

Ronan O'Brien, solicitor for the mother, said in an affidavit that an Article 40 application for the release of the child had been brought on the basis its detention was considered unlawful. He said no reasonable opportunity had been presented to the mother to make her case to the District Court which sat while she and the baby were under house arrest.

Mr O'Higgins argued that that the district court hearing of the HSE's application was unlawful and irregular in that the mother was prevented by gardai from attending court.

Sunday Independent

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