Hemming helps woman in forced Caesarean and adoption case

The Telegraph carries a story which should make any liberal ask a lot of questions.

To summarise, a pregnant Italian woman was sent to Stansted for a training session. She was sectioned under the Mental Health Act after becoming distressed. But worse was to come:

By now Essex social services were involved, and five weeks later she was told she could not have breakfast that day. When no explanation was forthcoming, she volubly protested. She was strapped down and forcibly sedated, and when she woke up hours later, found she was in a different hospital and that her baby had been removed by caesarean section while she was unconscious and taken into care by social workers. She was not allowed to see her baby daughter, and later learnt that a High Court judge, Mr Justice Mostyn, had given the social workers permission to arrange for the child to be delivered. In October, at a hearing before another judge, she was represented by lawyers assigned to her by the local authority and told she would be escorted back to Italy without her baby.

There are times when it is, sadly, necessary to take a newborn into care. The brutality of the way in which this was done to a foreign national raises so many questions.

I am acutely aware that I am not in full possession of the facts. The social services and doctors will know much more. There may well have been good, clinical reason to carry out a delivery by Caesarean section. We don’t know how far advanced the pregnancy was and what the medical situation was. As the mother was deemed unable to consent to that by virtue of being sectioned, then the very least you would expect is for a court order to be obtained before that major surgery was carried out.

Taking the baby into care and subsequently putting her up for adoption is such a drastic step and I want to be reassured this this was done for a good reason and there was no alternative. I want to see what possible outcomes were explored. I have seen enough real life cases at close quarters where social services have got it very badly wrong to make me naturally very sceptical when I hear something like this. I’m not going to get that reassurance about this because details are obviously confidential.

That’s why I am glad that Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming, who takes a close interest in such cases, is to raise it in Parliament. When professionals take such extreme action, it is vital that they are scrutinised closely and as much as possible.

I’ve had a long conversation on Twitter with Evan Harris about this tonight. He has been very keen to emphasise that due process will have taken place and he appears more inclined than I am to accept the professionals’ judgement. He’s also been quite critical of John’s record on these sorts of cases. You can judge for yourself by reading his views here.

The mother and child in any case like this are particularly vulnerable and powerless. To have this sort of decision made in a foreign country must be so much more difficult. One of the things Liberal Democrats are for is to protect people from the excesses of the state. That’s why it’s right that Hemming has become involved, to make sure that power has been appropriately exercised.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Tony Greaves 1st Dec '13 - 10:30pm

    I was sufficiently alarmed by this to press the link the the Telegraph article, something I don’t often do because doing such things often crashes my computer. Having read it I have had to sit down and breathe deeply for five minutes.

    Yes I would like to read what someone in Essex social services has to say about it, but of course never will.

    Yes Christopher Booker has his own agenda and it’s a very very long time since he could be counted among the ranks of Liberals.

    But…I have come across too many stories of social services bullying and worse over the years to think instinctively that this story is not in essence true. If just the basic facts are true we should all be very very frightened.

    People in Italy must wonder where they must go to find fascism in practice nowadays.


  • Not sure what definition of liberal Evan thinks would justify this sort if action, and his description of John Hemming “having previous” sounds as though he disagrees with those subjected to high handed treatment being represented.

    Hacked celebs somehow more important?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 1st Dec '13 - 10:56pm

    If I think about it, I could think of some circumstances where it might be necessary if either mother’s or baby’s life was in danger or if there were serious self harm going on which coukd put baby in danger. You would think that the mother would be kept informed of what was going on, though, not just wake up and find she didn’t have a bump any more & not being allowed to see her baby.

    I would expect that there would be some clinical need to make it ethical for doctors to do it. But these things need proper reviewing.

  • Joe – unfortunately most of the common medication can’t be used during pregnancy, which may well be why the lady concerned wasn’t taking it and had an acute episode.

  • Perhaps the action was taken to protect the unborn child. I doubt newspapers will get/print all the facts given the systems we have.

  • Tubby Isaacs 1st Dec '13 - 11:42pm

    It’s written by Christopher Booker. Read this.


    Rather than John Hemming piling in, a bit of scepticism would be in order.

    Even with my limited knowledge of the subject matter, his story looks like it’s missing a fair bit out. An acquaintance of mine, married to a widwife, says that the medical staff would have been involved. The idea social workers can go to court and demand a Cesarian and the judge just grants it, that’s utterly ridiculous.

  • Tubby Isaacs 1st Dec '13 - 11:56pm

    I know why Hemming’s piled in. And why the article’s covered here.

    It’s this “liberal” lark again. We used to think that the Lib Dems had meaningful commitments to the right to protest, limits of state surveillance etc. That’s turned out to be a load of rubbish now we’ve seen them in government. Clegg’s said nothing about the Coalition Agreement’s fine words on civil liberties being chucked in the bin. He even supported the Guardian’s computer being smashed up. Despite “tough decisions” on spending, we’ve got plenty for new prisons. And secret courts.

    We also got a load of tripe from Jeremy Browne about “difficult” balances etc- which of course didn’t exist for Gordon Brown or Tony Blair.

    So along comes this issue- Booker is almost certainly being misleading- see his stuff on family courts. And in jumps John Hemming. We’re told he’s “helping” the woman.

    So we’ve got the Lib Dems out there, defending liberty.

    What’s the betting this turns out to be a genuinely difficult case after all? No cynicism intended there- cases with people who’ve been sectioned, involving children are difficult. What will provoke cynicism is the inevitable Norman Lamb article about it, and the inevitable “as a liberal” stuff. As if the rest of us do this sort of thing for free.

    Even if it is exactly as Booker says, it won’t alter the fact that you’ve failed appallingly on liberties.

  • As a father, I would be concerned to obtain confirmation that the local authority made sufficient efforts to contact the family of the Italian woman concerned before taking the baby into care. The woman may have been sectioned, but was this temporary or permanent? And do fathers really have no rights in this matter? Of course, that may be exactly what has happened.

  • I do know that some LibDem sympathetic social workers are not enamoured of John Hemmings positions on some matters. In fact bloody cross is a more accurate way to put it.

    This action took a decision by three high Court judges in order to go forwards.

    As I understand John Hemmings position form previous comments by him, he thinks that the secrecy of courts in such necessarily sensitive matters means that judges do not build up a consistent position as there is no public development of consensus and learning from errors.

  • Fiona White 2nd Dec '13 - 8:20am

    I am sure that social services would have had to convince the judges that the woman was not able to make the decisions for herself before an order would have been given for the operation to go ahead. My very real concern about this is that social services have now kept the baby in this country and offered her for adoption. The mother is Italian so I would assume the baby is also Italian. It seems that the woman has family in Italy. I need to be convinced that it is really in the child’s best interests that she is adopted in Britain instead of going to Italy to be cared for by her own family.

    I think John Hemmings is right to question not only whether the process was followed but also whether the process is right. If we don’t question these things nothing will ever be improved.

  • Richard Dean 2nd Dec '13 - 12:18pm

    This is a very responsibly written article, Caron, many thanks. The case certainly does need parliamentary scrutiny. A lot of people must have been involved, certainly, but sometimes a lot of people make the same mistake. There are a lot of issues here, starting with the rights of mother and of baby, and including re-assuring the public. I would have preferred a woman parliamentarian to have been leading the LibDem approach.

  • social services take babies from white european mothers more often than people think. Foreign mothers are vulnerable here, specially if they don’t speak the language or know the legal system. European mothers also come from a latin culture and in latin cultures the mother child bond is sacred, motherhood valued in society whereas here motherhood is undervalued. Motherhood became something you do on the side. Look at Kate Middleton. The press was very keen to show her pictures to prove that she didn’t change one bit. Obviously motherhood for her doesn’t mean sleepless nights or prevents her from working. It is as if she hasn’t become a mother and society is happy with that it seems. Put that together with suggestions that children should start school earlier and you get a society that is only interested in getting rid of the kids. The only thing missing is a suggestion that kids from poor families should all be placed for adoption with a family that is not on income support or ESA and BINGO. Problem sorted! Taking babies from their mother is not new for the British. Remember all the children that were shipped to Australia when things were tough here? I don’t know of another country doing such a thing. Although poverty is a very bad thing, being separated from your family must be worse. It is about time the courts and the social services come clean on the issue adoption in this country. There shouldn’t be targets for adoption either. This baby should be returned to Italy. That is where the baby belongs, with its Italian family.

  • Tony Dawson 2nd Dec '13 - 2:05pm

    @Tubby Isaacs

    “An acquaintance of mine, married to a widwife, says that the medical staff would have been involved. ”

    ‘should have’ , yes. ‘would have’?????

    Those of us who deal full time with casework know that such an assumption can never realistically be made, whether you are talking about a private organisation, or an arm of local or national government. Standards in the NHS slipped drastically due to both the re-organisation into purchaser-provider, and Labour’s abolition of Community Health Councils and introduction of the worse than useless CQC and Monitor into the NHS. ‘Healthwatch’ (a kind of CHC with baby teeth) is too young as yet to be properly assessed as to whether it will make any significant impact.

    “The idea social workers can go to court and demand a Cesarian and the judge just grants it, that’s utterly ridiculous.”

    It SHOULD be ridiculous. But, get real, some judges are as bad as some doctors….police…politicians….social workers….newspapermen. 🙁 I am presently dealing with FOUR complaints about judicial competence (as opposed to appeals).

  • Tubby Isaacs 2nd Dec '13 - 4:22pm

    “Richard Dean 2nd Dec ’13 – 12:18pm

    This is a very responsibly written article, Caron, many thanks”

    What about the heading? How do we know Hemming’s helping anyone?

    Did you see what the judge said about him on another occasion he waded in?


    “The only postscript I would wish to add to my substantive judgment on this point is that at the heart of this case, as with so many family cases, lies a human tragedy: the premature and unconsidered birth of a disabled child, and a mother who is plainly incapable of caring for her, however much she may want to. However, the danger of the mother’s approach, reinforced as it has been, in my judgment, by Mr Hemming’s partial and tendentious advice, is that it has been entirely adult focused. Not once in his argument did he mention the welfare of KP. His emphasis, and that of RP was entirely on her rights and the alleged wrongs which had been done to her.”

  • Richard Dean 2nd Dec '13 - 5:12pm

    @Tubby Isaacs. Ok, so you’ve got a thing about Hemming, and you’ve got a thing about LibDems in general. Do you also have anything helpful to write about the specific issues surrounding this case?

  • Even listening to the update this evening on Radio 4 news, I’m left with the strong impression that Essex social services committed a gross abuse of human rights on a bona fida non-UK EU citizen and are compounding it by continuing to abuse the rights of the child, also a bona fida non-UK EU citizen. What is really concerning is that the key events in this case happened 15 months back and it has only just come to light.

  • Helen Dudden 2nd Dec '13 - 8:24pm

    Could not here family have been consulted before this happened?

    I don’t know what happened, but something did, what would have written if it was the other round? Another country did this to a British subject.

  • daft ha'p'orth 2nd Dec '13 - 9:34pm

    @Anna 2nd Dec ’13 – 12:58pm

    “European mothers also come from a latin culture and in latin cultures the mother child bond is sacred, motherhood valued in society whereas here motherhood is undervalued.”

    The great thing about this being that according to the Essex release, “the mother has two other children which she is unable to care for due to orders made by the Italian authorities.” What price the Latin sacred mother-child bond? Seems the Italians aren’t aware of this themselves?

  • daft ha'p'orth 2nd Dec '13 - 9:43pm

    @Helen Dudden
    I would hope that reporters would take the time to learn the facts of the case before publishing FOREIGN GOVERNMENT ARE BABY THIEVES headlines, but you’re probably right that, in England, a lot of xenophobic stuff would’ve been written about that situation. I wonder what the Italian press has to say about this one? A quick look at the Corriere della Sera shows lots of articles mentioning Essex, only one of which is from 2013 and which has to do with revenge attacks on mosques following the Woolwich murder earlier this year. Calling fluent Italian speakers?

  • @daft ha’p’orth

    Italian press is mainly reporting the news as the Telegraph published it.

    Here the mother has been interviewed and states that adoption requests filed from both the father (of Senegal nationality) and a relative in the USA have been rejected.

  • Helen Dudden 4th Dec '13 - 8:27am

    What a very sad article to be reported, I was pleased to hear that John Hemmings had been involved, one person I know that has an interest in the subject of family law.

  • Jerry Lonsdale 4th Dec '13 - 4:56pm

    One would suggest here is that from the outset something very badly wrong happened very very quickly.

    Mother’s “Mental Health” Okay, not disputed, however point missing is Mother was simply on a Training Course at Stanstead sent by her Employers, obviously her Employers in Italy have a lot of faith in her to do this.

    Despite what appears to be misgivings by the article written by Christopher Booker, the emphasis and certainties could not and should not be missed by those written by the Mother for SKY News.

    Having been in a position of assisting John hemming MP for 6 years with matters like those reported I find it shocking that it has taken an horrific story like this to make the debate more substantial, I remember John’s PMB a while back and only 6 Members were in Chambers, John has cried out for years about these travesties that occur on a daily basis, I do know that this Italian case is not the first, it has however made more of a substantial impact because the Mother is a foreign national, situations like these happened on a daily basis and if one was to follow the Re. B case from the Supreme Courts in June the mother in that case was also in the same position as the Italian mother found herself in.

    The problems we face John, myself and a few others who have protested parents innocence since Time Immemorial we were always called cranks and not knowing what we were talking about, the term No Smoke Without Fire I am sure was penned specifically for John Hemming, now we see the Global interest this Italian case has caused now shows were were not cranks and yes we do have a point to prove and raise.

    The State has for quite some time irrespective of the successive Governments this matter of dark and seedy underworld of child protection had been left to its own devises for simply far too long and the accountability has been left unchecked,

    There is uproar when a Child dies and quite rightly so, this Italian case however shows the other side of the coin which again causes uproar.

    Now we seem to have most of the facts of the case and with John Hemming at the helm I do hope that now this dark and seedy world is thrust into the light and finally we are cranks no more, told you so doesn’t seem to be apt at the moment.

  • This does not surprize me. My local social services took my children because i had post natal depression. They then stated at every proffessionals meeting that i had bipolar disorder something which i do not and never have had. When my youngest child was born i had that child in aniother nhs trust not my local one. They assigned me a specialist mental health nurse who dealt only with post natl depression. My child was removed at birth and i did not see my child for ten days after that. The specialist nurse attended the next proffessionals meeting and thats when things came to light. As a result of her testimony both at meetings and in court i had my children returned within two months. This happened over eight years ago. My children were returned to me without social services being further involved but it could have been so different.

  • This is a ludicrous article. No attempt to sort fact from fiction. How can LibDems present a credible face to the world with the dangerous advice peddled such as that propounded in these comments? Don’t seek advice if you have MH problems and want to keep your children? Irresponsible and stupid.

    I was a LibDem supporter. No longer.

  • Elizabeth Wilson 31st Dec '13 - 12:15am

    Why has the original author not come back to correct this article, given that transcripts of the relevant judgments have been out in the public domain for some considerable time? They demonstrate the numerous errors in the article and radically change the picture. To take just four examples:

    1. The woman was not sectioned after becoming “distressed”. She was sectioned because she was in the grip of a full blown manic episode as part of her bipolar disorder. The judge who saw her several weeks later was concerned that she still showed signs of being unwell for the same reason.

    2. This was not the first time she had been hospitalised for similar episodes after stopping taking her medication.

    3. Her two older children had been removed from her care as a result. The oldest was described as being seriously traumatised by witnessing her mother in this state.

    4. Unsurprisingly, the decision to order a Caesarian was not made on the application of Social Services, but the hospital treating the mother.

    The greater question is: why do the Lib Dems still extend the whip to John Hemming in circumstances where he has been actively involved in propagating a seriously misleading version of events in this case? And why does it support him when he is known to have acted in direct breach of a direct court order by publishing the name of not only the baby in question but also her siblings on a public website, and has repeatedly refused to apologise publicly for so doing?

  • I can only agree with Alison and Elizabeth above. That the Lib Dems (of which I am one of the 2000 new members – so new i’ve not even got my sign in info yet!) continue to fail to take action regarding Hemming is making me reconsider my membership.

    this blog sums up fairly well the data protections concerns you as a party should have about him.

    this blog demonstrates that a lot of people have had a lot of concerns about this man for over 2 years

    and this article shows that people in the mainstream media are starting to sit up and take notice too.
    a quick search of the mumsnet forum shows that he has spent 2 – 3 years trolling the mental health and adoption boards targeting vulnerable people.

    So when are Lib Dems going to take action – before he does something even more stupid , or after when he brings the party down with him, because as with Rennard the party can’t really claim that it hasn’t been brought to their attention.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 4th Jan '14 - 2:12pm

    I was very careful to try not to reach a particular conclusion in the article, merely to say that the case warranted investigating. However, having read most of the published material in this case, I am more anxious that there may have been a wrong decision made, particularly that to adopt the baby in this country when it was acknowledged that the mother’s health had improved.

    I don’t always agree with John Hemming but I have some personal knowledge of some of the other cases he has taken up in the past and in those ones I feel that he was absolutely right to do so.

    One of the things that liberals exist to do is to protect people from the state’s abuse of power. All governments do so at some point, as Nick Clegg pointed out after he became DPM.

    I would be very interested to hear what those of you who have commented on this thread in favour of what was done in this case have to say about the report in today’s Independent which details concerns of solicitors that human rights are being breached by the way the Court of Protection works. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/mental-health-patients-being-denied-human-rights-in-court-warn-leading-lawyers-9038003.html

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