Opinion: Child taken from womb by social services. Really?

Yesterday Caron Lindsay blogged on the case of what some are describing as the “Forced Caesarian and Child Abduction” case. In her article she reached certain judgments that I think displayed a degree of unjustified faith in accuracy of newspaper reports.

This is especially unwise in cases where those who are criticised can not answer back due to medical confidentiality and/or legal restrictions designed to protect the privacy of a child (and possibly the patient).

I felt the quickest way to “put the other side” is to look at and respond to some of the points made by Caron in her post.  In saying that, she did point out that I disagreed, for which I am grateful.

The headline to the Telegraph story was Operate on this mother so that we can take her baby and the stand-first was  “A mother was given a caesarean section while unconscious – then social services put her baby into care”.

Both are outrageously misleading and sensationalist. And there was another Telegraph news story the same day even more absurdly saying, without even the false cover of any quote marks, Child taken from womb by social services. Caron says..

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.

This cannot be an accurate summary, because it would betray a fundamental lack of understanding of the clinical basis and legal requirements for sectioning. Even the Daily Mail was unwilling to ascribe the decision to section the patient to mere “distress”. “The woman has a bipolar condition and courts have been told that she is affected by ‘manic episodes’ and paranoid delusions if she fails to take medication”. 

The description in the Telegraph of what happened of the facts is wholly unreliable and partial. It seems she had been detained under the Mental Health Act for 5 weeks. 5 weeks. This suggests that the patient was seriously ill. It rather undermines the Telegraph’s assertion that she was sectioned for being “distressed” or a “panic attack”.

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.

Again this can not be the full story. If the patient wanted to go back to Italy she might only be fit to travel with an escort. The Children Act requires the authorities to consider the best interests of the baby and it seems unlikely that putting the child on a plane with someone who was either still under a section, or possibly still very ill, was in the child’s best interests.

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.

How on earth can one say – on so little knowledge of the true facts – that this was done “brutally”? The actions of the professionals here may have saved lives. And if it was the right thing to do in the interests of the child or mother, it remains the right thing to do, clinically and legally, regardless of nationality.  “Hey Doc – she’s a foreigner – let’s discharge her”.

In fairness, Caron admits she is “acutely aware that I am not in full possession of the facts.” But that does not seem to have caused anyone any restraint in reaching conclusions. In these cases we should at least seek to put ourselves in the place of the social workers involved. They face a dilemma. Which paper would be the first (Ok, second) to call for social workers to be sacked if the child had been damaged in such circumstances? After drafting this blog, I saw that Essex County Council has now issued a statement. These facts blow a hole in the allegations in the press.

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.

Yet this is exactly what was done. The clinical necessity and the clinical judgement of best interests would have been tested by the courts in this case. As opposed to selected facts being tested by the editor of the Sunday Telegraph.

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.

Taking a child into care (and subsequent adoption) are court-supervised procedures where the best interests of the child are paramount and the parents are represented. Retaining parental care and contact are the default positions and these are usually only “displaced” by evidence of harm or risk put in front of an impartial tribunal.

We all know the risks of reading the comments under blogs but under LDV we usually get a good quality discussion. But this one, from Joe Otten is a corker.

Anyway, the lesson we can all draw from this, is don’t seek help for any mental health problems you may have, if you want to keep your children, or value your bodily integrity.

To stigmatise social services and mental health professionals in such a way is as bad as stigmatising mental health service users and perhaps even more dangerous to the public interest. It is a pity that our popular newspapers do not step into the shoes of professionals in the care sector, but Liberal Democrats might take a moment to do so.

Interest: The author is Associate Director of Hacked Off which campaigns for more effective and independent press self-regulation.

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144 Comments

  • Amanda Jacks 2nd Dec '13 - 7:54pm

    Why did the council seek a court order for the c-section and not the NHS Trust?

  • What about the very valid and correct assertion that the child should never have been proposed for adoption before the mother’s family had been contacted wrt possible transferral of care? If a child has been given away by the state without first asking the family or friends of the mother if they can care for the child – perhaps just until she is well again – then a massive travesty has occurred.

  • Noting that the author is involved with Hacked Off is a valuable disclosure, but even more relevant, I believe, is the fact that he has held numerous positions with the BMA and is essentially shilling for his industry.

  • PS The allegations (if true) that the mother was not informed that the operation about to happen beforehand – even if her consent was not required for it to happen because of being sectioned – is also a very serious one. The trauma of a heavily pregnant woman waking up to find her belly empty would be massive , and potentially hugely harmful to a person in a mentally disturbed state. It surely cannot be legal to not even tell a person they are about to be operated on even if their consent is not required.

  • daft ha'p'orth 2nd Dec '13 - 8:27pm

    @Evan Harris
    “To stigmatise social services and mental health professionals in such a way is as bad as stigmatising mental health service users and perhaps even more dangerous to the public interest.”
    Wot you said.

    On the one hand I’ve enough from healthcare professionals in mental health to realise that there is quite a bit wrong here and there (for example, I get the strong impression that the system struggles to deal with people who are not quite ‘recovered’, aren’t ill enough to section but are ill enough to require ongoing support that they are not quite well enough to accept or trust; all this is expensive, too, which seems to sharply limit what is offered).

    On the other hand, all this Social Services Are Evil Demons Who Snatch Children From The Womb Of Defenceless Women stuff sounds like an episode of some sort of direct-to-cable US TV series. It’s not surprising that people who work in social services tend to either develop an extremely thick skin or develop depression/anxiety themselves and move on rapidly to another job.

    If, for example, someone’s not able to cope with childbirth and has no capacity to consent to treatment, then you’re going to have to apply to court for a decision. It’s not as though one can put a pregnancy to one side and deal with it later. The only thing that really surprises me about this case is the adoption in the UK, but looking at the linked page (‘the mother has two other children which she is unable to care for due to orders made by the Italian authorities’) these look like deep waters. It also appears that it’s the Italian court which ruled that the kid should stay in England, so perhaps outrage is better directed at them.

  • Well said Evan. I have lost court of the number of times I have had to explain these very same things to people over the last few days.

    I am willing to accept that I do not know if the best outcome was found here, but I know that this would not have been the flippant act it has been made out to be. I also know that we do not have a dead baby here, something which must have been a real risk if the mental experts were truly willing to do this.

  • Tony Dawson 2nd Dec '13 - 9:52pm

    Having looked at the comments on the thread under Caron’s posting on this subject, I am as concerned about those who seem to believe with certainty that this decision was automatically wrong as I am about those who make the equally-strange assumption/assertion that it was automatically right.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 2nd Dec '13 - 9:54pm

    Indeed, Jonathan. The decisions made are made in secret with no real oversight. It’s a bit like secret courts. Is a judge really going to go against professional recommendations? And the people on the receiving end are powerless to do anything about it.

  • daft ha'p'orth 2nd Dec '13 - 10:11pm

    @Caron Lindsay
    Then if the problem is with judicial oversight of court decisions perhaps that would be a reasonable discussion to have. Instead of this extremely vague ‘social services/mental health care teams are horrible people’ stuff. They ask the courts what to do. If you think the courts don’t come up with reasoned decisions and don’t have the overview they need then that seems an obvious place to seek to improve matters?

  • Tubby Isaacs 2nd Dec '13 - 10:43pm

    Well done, Evan. Nice to see some righteous anger and good sense on here.

    Utterly predictable that Booker was talking a load of rubbish.

    I saw you on Twitter trying to debate with John Hemming. I commiserate with you having to try and reason with such a chancer.

  • Paul Pettinger 2nd Dec '13 - 11:07pm

    You have helped to completely undermined your own point Evan by showing more blind faith in the state as you criticise others for showing in a press report.

    “Taking a child into care (and subsequent adoption) are court-supervised procedures where the best interests of the child are paramount and the parents are represented.”

    These are very easy words to write when you don’t know what it is like to have your life devastated by adoption. Thankfully society is continuing to move away from showing automatic deference to authority figures, whether they be clinitions, police or priests. We should all be concerned with concentrations and abuse of power, whether with the state or media.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 2nd Dec '13 - 11:08pm

    I never said anyone was horrible but ihave come across more than a few examples in my time where social services have made the wrong decisions. Some of these mistakes have concerned people I know and events have proved that social services were wrong. The consequences of their actions coukd have been horrendous. It is not surprising that I am sceptical. Government organisations of all sorts are not very good at admitting when they get things wrong and there is not much in the way of effective recourse for those on the receiving end.

    The caesarean might have been the right course of action, in the mother’s and baby’s best interests. I do worry that it was a surprise to the mother. that must be one hell of a trauma. I am not so convinced about subsequent events. When the mother already has two children, why should this baby be brought up in a country to which she has no connection. Surely correct response is to send her to Italy? That way, Mum has more chance of maintaining long term contact.

  • sheila oneill 2nd Dec '13 - 11:10pm

    I would never vote for Lib Dems again. I find some of these opinions outrageous with total disregard for human rights, let alone having any understanding of human rights for a vulnable person.
    As almost everyone will face a mental illness at some time in their lives some of these comments are also not very wise or educated let alone civilised.
    As those in power especially social services are out of control, perhaps those with such a disregard to others in illness or disability will pray that they themselves will receive better care when faced with alzeimers, parkinsons or some other form of dementia. And woe betide anyone who has post traumactic stress, depression or panic attacks in the meantime. You might just find that they decide on a C Section if pregnant.

  • Good article reminding folk not to jump to conclusions without being in full possession of the facts. Seems to be rather unfashionable in Liberal circles to give a damn about the life of an unborn child, but it appears the courts still do.

  • Liberal Neil 2nd Dec '13 - 11:20pm

    @Amanda Jacks – according to the Essex statement it was the NHS Trust that applied for the court order for the c-section.

  • Richard Dean 2nd Dec '13 - 11:25pm

    I think it was perfectly right to discuss this issue on LDV. Caron was explaining concerns that many readers of the newspapers will have had. Someone is going to stigmatize someone anyway, the important thing is to get to a good place eventually. Few contributors were being flippant. It was good that daft h’p’orth located a useful clarification from Essex Social Services.

    What is this article by Evan Harris about? It’s guessing in several key points, eg “Again this can not be the full story. If “. With “so little knowledge of the facts”, how is this article helping? It’s so full of assumptions! Social services are just human beings – they’ve got some things wrong in the past.

  • Liberal Neil 2nd Dec '13 - 11:25pm

    Cases like this one are very complex and Evan is right that we should be careful about drawing conclusions before we know all the facts. He is also quite right to point out that, as far as the law is concerned, the series of decisions taken in this case should have been taken very seriously, with the best interests of the child (primarily) and the mother (secondarily) at the forefront.

    It is also the case that some mothers, for different reasons, are not always the best person to care for their child.

    However it is right to be sceptical, particularly given the secret nature of many such proceedings, and it is also the case that just because the law says that proceedings should be carried out in a particular way it doesn’t always follow that they are.

    One thing I am certain of is that it is not easy being a social worker. They do seem to be damned when they do act and damned when they don’t. My immediate thought when I read the original Telegraph article was how easy it would have been for the Telegraph to write a different article condemning the NHS Trust if mother and child had died as a result of them not taking action.

  • “It’s a bit like secret courts.”

    Except it’s not secret – is it?

  • David Allen 2nd Dec '13 - 11:59pm

    Placing blind faith in social services is clearly wrong. However, I don’t think Evan Harris has done that.

    Placing blind faith in the accuracy of press reporting is also wrong. Placing credence in a scurrilous and blatantly sensationalist press report, like this one, is terribly wrong.

    If you’re going to turn a critical eye on child protection services, you don’t start by asking King Herod to help you evaluate the issues.

  • Shirley Campbell 3rd Dec '13 - 12:04am

    Be the case deemed to be complex, or be the case deemed to be straightforward, the actuality of any woman having a baby torn from her womb without her consent strikes terror into my heart. Argue what you will, and argue the presentation of the case by the media, but the upshot is what actually goes on behind “closed doors”.

    Sorry, but I am at an age when my heart rules my head.

  • Tubby Isaacs 3rd Dec '13 - 12:54am

    “the actuality of any woman having a baby torn from her womb without her consent strikes terror into my heart.”

    She’d been sectioned for 5 weeks. She couldn’t consent to anything.

  • daft ha'p'orth 3rd Dec '13 - 1:28am

    @Shirley Campbell
    “the actuality of any woman having a baby torn from her womb without her consent strikes terror into my heart. ”
    At risk of pointing out the excessively obvious: a baby that is ready to be born is going to leave the womb one way or another, whether the woman consents or not. As well as being emotive language, ‘torn from’ suggests that the poor thing is not ready to leave – clinging on for dear life. In fact I was born, torn from my mother’s womb, by C-section. My mother was unconscious at the time the event was arranged. My father made the decision on her behalf. Not that uncommon.

    It is not that unusual for those who cannot make/express their own choices to have decisions made on their behalf in order to safeguard their best interests, though unconsciousness is a far easier call to make than mental health conditions. In general you would also try to consider any previously stated preference or view the individual had shared in making that decision. Of course it’s preferable to avoid the situation wherever possible; it wouldn’t generally be viewed that a person’s best interests were served by pushing some unnecessary treatment on them, especially if that person’s situation is only temporary and they could return to the subject when their condition had improved. But the imminent appearance of a baby is a situation in which any best interest decisions required can’t be put off, at least not by very much. They had to do something. They chose to go with a C-section. I wonder why, doesn’t seem the obvious choice, more expensive, longer recuperation times, etc., but I’m not going to speculate without evidence.

    One point I’ve seen made about this case with which I agree is that there ought to be greater transparency about judgements, to the extent possible without compromising anonymity; another is that relevant specialists should be seen to have been consulted. That said, I have a sinking feeling that for the general public to be able to develop an informed opinion about the decisions made, a great deal of specific information would be required: what was this woman’s state of mind? Was it accurately assessed? How was it assessed? What was the reasoning behind the recommendations & judgement?

    Maybe this sort of case would be easier to treat rationally if society held fewer taboos about discussing cases of mental illness or incapacity. We know what to expect when someone says they have a cold, or arthritis, or to some extent cancer. We have more difficulty with symptoms of mental illness.

    I have experience of a couple of individuals with very debilitating paranoia who are able to project very convincingly stable personas at times, in the face of which the judge’s remark that “the mother before the court in February and the woman with the earlier mental episode were ‘almost like different people’” seems rather familiar. This goes back to that half-way house problem. We want people to be either ‘ill’ or ‘well’, as though there’s a magic switch, and so we find it difficult to work effectively with people who pretty much need gentle but persistent ongoing intervention but in practice are likely eventually to refuse it, at which point they allow their treatment to lapse/ alter, until and unless they become sufficiently poorly to fall under sectioning guidelines, at which point it’s back to sectioning again. Here the judge says that he doesn’t believe that the mother would not lapse. Having seen people follow a somewhat similar pathway, I’m a little sorry that middle-ground solutions couldn’t have been found, say, signing up to monitored early-intervention to slow down that seesawing between ‘just fine’ and ‘sectionable’.

  • Eddie Sammon 3rd Dec '13 - 1:53am

    I agree with the author that people were too quick to condemn.

    Having said that, I can’t say I’m comfortable with this “think of the children” consensus. I’ll withhold my judgement, probably forever.

  • So Evan having observed that members of the public have an “unjustified faith in accuracy of newspaper reports” and then go on to show that various newspaper reports “cannot be an accurate ” or are “wholly unreliable and partial”, please tell us just what the position of Hacked Off is on this. I’m particularly interested since according to your byline “Hacked Off … campaigns for more effective and independent press self-regulation.” so it would seem this is clearly a case where the press has failed regulate itself and report the facts.

  • “How on earth can one say – on so little knowledge of the true facts – that this was done “brutally”? ”

    How on earth can you describe something that involved a forced caesarian (unless the whole story is simply made up) as anything other than brutal? The fact remains that we have government organisations that have to the power to do this and they have the power to do it in secret. That is simply not acceptable and the attempted justifications have been pathetic.

  • Thank god for social services and the courts who make life-changing decisions in possession of the FACTS. If they didn’t “snatch” babies away from their mothers at birth I expect my beautiful adopted niece and nephew would be living in conditions of depravity and deprivation now, or maybe even dead.

  • I don’t know about the specifics of the particular case but social services in general are out of control and when it affects foreign nationals it is bad for the reputation of Britain abroad. You don’t know everything that is happening because child protection stories are not generally reported inthe UK. Here are photos from a protest outside the British embassy in Bratislava which was not reported in the UK press:

    http://www.topky.sk/cl/10/1324668/

    Pretty much the only British person with a good reputation in Slovakia right now is John Hemming, and it is undoubtably having an economic impact too.

  • This baby girl is Italian and was taken away from her country and her relatives in Italy.
    I understand most of you don’t care about this particular in the story but it is important to understand how Britsh authorities can step in in such matters and avoid to contact Italian social services.
    Was the father aware? What about the grand-parents? Why hasn’t the little girl case handed over to Italian social services?

  • Evan Harris 3rd Dec '13 - 9:15am

    @ Amanda Jacks 7.45pm [Why did the council seek a court order for the c-section and not the NHS Trust?
]

    “Five weeks later it was the Health Trust’s clinical decision to apply to the High Court for permissions to deliver her unborn baby by caesarean section because of concerns about risks to mother and child.” http://www.essex.gov.uk/News/Pages/Essex-County-Council-responses-to-interest-in-story-headlined-Essex-removes-baby-from-mother.aspx

    This would be normal. The decision for a C-section is a clinical one made by the doctors based on the clinical best interests of the patient. It was NOT a matter a child welfare. This is one of the areas where the “anti-social worker” press and blogosphere have got it so wrong. The willful ignorance of these basic facts in the press is both depressing and troubling

    If there were child welfare issues at birth then a separate decision could be taken about needing action to take the child into care.

    @MBoy (7.56pm) The court in determining the care proceedings will have considered the capability and suitability of the extended family. Decisions in this area can be appealed. The family courts are not a massive anti-Italian, anti-family conspiracy

    @Paul [he has held numerous positions with the BMA and is essentially shilling for his industry.
]

    Tsk. I am a member of the BMA. I was a junior doctor representative on the Council of my trade union between 1993 and 1997. I have been an elected member of the Medical Ethics Committee on and off since then. I defend the ethical behaviour of doctors against unfair attacks and attack the unethical behaviour of doctors.

    @MBoy [The allegations (if true) that the mother was not informed that the operation about to happen beforehand .. is also a very serious one. The trauma of a heavily pregnant woman waking up to find her belly empty would be massive , and potentially hugely harmful to a person in a mentally disturbed state].

    The doctors looking after the patient’s mental illness are not the same ones as the obstetricians delivering the baby. So there is no conflict of interest and they will be making the best clinical decisions in full possession of the facts. We are not. It should be remembered that vaginal delivery for someone suffering from psychosis can be very traumatic. None of us can start to know the clinical details – except it was not a panic attack as the Telegraph (and even the Guardian!) have suggested.

    @Jonathan Calder [The judicial system, the health service and social services are all fallible institutions employing fallible people.
My problem with Evan’s logic is that I do not see how, under it, those mistakes would ever be revealed and put right.
]

    But it is not a massive conspiracy involving every doctor, every senior social worker, and every judge, and every appeal court judge. May be the system is working quite well with checks and balances. Maybe the “campaigners” are wrong eg http://inforrm.wordpress.com/2011/09/05/news-judgments-released-in-doncaster-metropolitan-bc-v-haigh-the-hemming-injunction-case/

    @Alistair [Good article reminding folk not to jump to conclusions without being in full possession of the facts. Seems to be rather unfashionable in Liberal circles to give a damn about the life of an unborn child, but it appears the courts still do].

    Thanks. But I should point out that the decision to do a C-section here would have been based on the mother’s bests interests only. The fate of the “unborn child” (which does not have equivalent rights) would be a factor to be considered in what were in her bests interests of course. 


  • Even if you disagree with Evan Harris, you will probably recognise his frustration with comments like Joe Otten’s – “Anyway, the lesson we can all draw from this, is don’t seek help for any mental health problems you may have, if you want to keep your children, or value your bodily integrity.”

    Has Joe Otten reconsidered his rather extreme reaction?

  • The woman in question had a panic attack when she couldn’t find her older children’s passports. She called the police, and then her mother who was in Italy. The police arrived, spoke to the woman and her mother and then without consulting a doctor at any point took the woman to a psychiatric hospital. An arrangement which she was not informed or consulted about and to which she did not consent. (Common assault, wrongful arrest, false imprisonment).

    The police did not contact the Police Surgeon on call (negligence) or speak to any doctor present or working at Stansted Airport. In addition the police did not contact either the nearest Italian Consul or the Embassy; this is a flagrant and illegal breach of the Vienna Convention. The UK has previously been prosecuted for such a breach. The Chief Constable appears not to know or care (Misconduct in a Public Office).

    On realising it was a psychiatric hospital the woman asked to leave, as was her absolute right. Instead she was forcibly detained and then sectioned (assault and false imprisonment). There is no evidence that the hospital contacted the woman’s treating physician in Italy (professional negligence), the woman’s family (breach of the European Convention) or the Italian Embassy (breach of the Vienna Convention). The Chief Executive and the hospital’s lawyer appear to have been completely oblivious or indifferent to unlawful conduct by the hospital (professional negligence, professional misconduct, Misconduct in a Public Office).

    Some weeks later the hospital applied for an order in the Court of Protection for permission to carry out a Caesarean section. The woman says she was never consulted about that. I see no reason to disbelieve her. (Assault Trespass to the Person, personal injury). It has since been stated by the woman’s newly appointed lawyers that there was in fact no medical need for this procedure at all. (Perjury, Contempt of Court, abuse of process, misconduct on the bench, professional misconduct, personal injury).

    One morning the woman is refused breakfast, no explanation is provided (professional negligence); she is then forcibly sedated (assault trespass to the person) and unbeknownst to her transferred to another hospital where a caesarean section is carried out (assault GBH, personal injury). She wakes up in a strange hospital to find she is no longer pregnant. The doctors advise that the baby should stay with her fora while. Essex CC applies for an order to take the child into care and for reasons which are not explained the judge overrules the doctors (possible perjury and contempt again, misconduct on the bench again).

    Essex CC does not contact the Italian Consulate or Embassy (breach of the Vienna Convention).

    The mother is then as Judge Roderick Newton specifically rules “dispatched to Italy with unseemly haste”, (breach of the European Convention).

    The mother goes back to her own doctors, who unlike their British counterparts clearly know what they are doing, and applies to the Italian court for the return of her child. The Italian judge is predictably very angry but seems to feel his hands are tied.

    The mother comes back to the UK and instructs her own lawyers, who contact John Hemming MP. The judge rules adoption should go ahead on the basis that the mother might stop taking her medication again (abuse of authority and not supported by the evidence). No account is taken of the fact that both she and the baby are Italian citizens (breach of EU and International law, misconduct on the bench again). Essex CC objects on truly thin grounds to the baby being handed to the care of the mother’s former sister-in-law (abuse of process, breach of the European Convention). Still no notification to the Consulate or Embassy (continuing breach of the Vienna Convention).

    The case hits the papers, Essex CC posts a statement that is frankly misleading if not overtly untruthful, and which is contradicted by the family. Munby J calls the case in – all UK parties involved probably in very serious legal and regulatory trouble.

    Evan Harris writes a blog which serves only to display his near total ignorance of English law.

  • Evan Harris 3rd Dec '13 - 1:22pm

    Since I wrote my blog-post yesterday morning the following legal analyses have been published

    http://www.birthrights.org.uk/2013/12/forced-cesarean-a-legal-perspective/

    http://suesspiciousminds.com/2013/12/02/untimely-ripped/

    http://pinktape.co.uk/cases/never-let-the-facts-get-in-the-way-of-a-good-story-eh/

    http://ukhumanrightsblog.com/2013/12/03/lessons-learned-from-the-forced-c-section-case/

    They are thorough and well referenced and fully support what i have said.

    The care order judgement http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/Misc/2013/20.html has also now emerged.

    As Carl Gardner says it would be a good idea for commenters to read these as well as the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph.

  • daft ha'p'orth 3rd Dec '13 - 1:41pm

    @Carl Gardner
    Thank you for that link.

    Comes across as a very reasonable and compassionate judgement to me, especially the bit that suggests strongly that the desire of the child’s birth family for ongoing contact should be honoured.

    It also paints a far more familiar portrait of characteristic mistakes made by the NHS: specifically, kicking the patient out with unseemly haste and failing to dot i’s and cross t’s about the implications of that action: “By that stage it was being asserted by the treating doctors that the mother had regained capacity under the relevant test. I have to say that when the mother appeared before me at that time she did not appear to be at all well, and I am surprised that it was being claimed that she had legal capacity […] I was led to believe that the mother was in a good state and a good frame of mind but frankly nothing could have been further from the truth. […]She should in my view have been assisted here to participate in these proceedings. I know she wanted to go to Italy but by going to Italy any realistic prospect of [the baby] returning to her care was diminished substantially.”

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 3rd Dec '13 - 1:58pm

    That’s interesting, because reading the judgement confirms my initial feeling that putting this child, who is a foreign national, up for adoption in this country was wrong and unfair.

    Surely it would have been fairer for the child to be placed with Italian foster parents and then for the Italian authorities to decide what was to be done. It was noted that the mother was well and had a secure job and was taking her medication well. She did all of that, turned her life around and still didn’t gain access to her baby. What sort of justice is that?

    I also note that when the baby was born, the doctors wanted her to stay with the mother and the social workers did not. The judge went with the social workers.

    The more facts I see, the more dubious I become about the actions of the authorities in this case.

  • The care of order judgement IMO clearly supports the view that the judge has erred and a travesty of justice has occurred. The Judge argues throughout a case that the mother is doing well and the best place for a child is with its mother and family. He then perversely decides the opposite.

    I very much hope that the Italian government challenges the ruling – which is clearly unsafe – on the grounds that an English court cannot order the adoption (i.e. indefinite detention) of an Italian citizen.

  • @Caron – I agree totally. Evan (who I have long liked) needs to take a step back and re-view the case before he digs himself into a hole that will damage his reputation substantially.

  • daft ha'p'orth 3rd Dec '13 - 2:11pm

    @Tony Greaves
    It isn’t quite an accurate comment anyway. Whether you are capable of consent in a specific area is a separate issue to whether you are sectionable. A proportion of people who have been sectioned lack capacity to make decisions, just as a proportion of people who are very happily and successfully living in the community lack capacity to make decisions in certain areas. Sectioning and lacking capacity probably correlate but there’s no assumption that the two are synonymous.

    http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/legal-rights/rights-consent-to-treatment/#.Up3jX8N0lE0

    As for why she wasn’t informed/whether she wasn’t informed, you and I weren’t there, so we don’t know; she was there and documented to have been suffering from paranoid delusions. The sum total of our knowledge about this case, including the Telegraph article, amounts to very little. Get someone to do an investigation by all means, personally I’d be fascinated to read it, but in the meantime let us recall what ‘bipolar and suffering from paranoid delusions’ means, how unpleasant they are for the sufferer – and how difficult it is for everybody around the sufferer, including social services and healthcare!

  • Tony Dawson 3rd Dec '13 - 3:04pm

    @Stephen W

    “I just read the adoption report and find it astonishing. That a child should be entirely separated from its entire extended family and country of origin on the basis of a treatable mental illness suffered by the mother.”

    What is the obsession with nationality? The mother has presumably been living in Britain for some time, the father may or may not be involved. There is no overwhelming priority for ‘grandparents’ rights’ being particularly helpful to a child. None of us has a clue about the Psychiatrists’ assessment of the effect of having the child in close proximity on (a) the mother’s health and (b) the safety of the child.

    I presume if the mother is concerned for her child to be re-untied with her than she will be appealing to both a Mental Health Tribunal and making a formal complaint about the social service dept pursuing the Fostering/Adoption route. Until we get the results of such hearings (or any court hearings that supersede them) , the rest of us don’t really have a potential for an informed view.

  • Evan Harris 3rd Dec '13 - 3:06pm

    @Stephen W – It is not an adoption report. It is a judgment, made after hearing all sides and having the welfare of the child as paramount. I guess we all know better with our cod opinions based on our feelings and none of the expert reports and first-hand evidence.

    @Caron 1.58pm Like Stephen W, you are taking the same attitude that illiberal types take with non-populist ECtHR decisions. Respecting the rule of law sometimes requires less “I know better, the judge is a knave or a fool” and more “Lets see what the appeal process brings”.

  • Evan Harris 3rd Dec '13 - 3:13pm

    @Tony Greaves 3rd Dec ’13 – 1:56pm
    [“Doesn’t explain why she was not informed”].

    How do you know she was not informed? Oh yes from press reports that are now known to be riven with errors.

    [“Imagine what the position would be if the position was reversed – that an “English” baby had been “stolen” by the Italian authorities. I dare not think what the press headlines would be.”]

    We would be better judging what is best by due process not press headlines. It is clear from the judgement in Feb 2013 http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/Misc/2013/20.html that there was no objection from the Italian authorities or courts to the decisions being made in the UK.

    [“I do think that Evan Harris has tarnished himself by his rush to justify what has happened in this very very worrying case.”]

    Tarnished or otherwise, I think we can see that I have been the *last* to” rush to judgement” and the first to urge people to (a) get the true facts first as much as they are available (b) not believe everything found in sensationalist (and, it turns out, wrong) press stories and (c) read the court judgement which was made after consideration of all the facts and testimony as they were then.

    i would urge Tony Greaves (who I would never dream of doubting the varnishing of) to read this analysis http://pinktape.co.uk/cases/never-let-the-facts-get-in-the-way-of-a-good-story-eh/

  • I believe that Evan is trying to demonstrate that the process the press alluded to could not have occurred within the usual framework. That said, there are clearly questions to be answered in this affair and there seems to be a lot of assertions and not too many facts on display at this point. At the heart of most clinical decisions are people trying to do their best for their patient. I believe the same is also true of social workers.

    One of the most worrying comments I have seen is that of Joe Otten. For years mental health professionals (and the wider primary care environment) have been trying to de-stigmatise mental health treatment to encourage those who need support to seek it. His statement, and he is I believe an elected Lib Dem, is a disgrace. Lack of effective treatment leads to real problems for both the individual and potentially society as a whole. He should withdraw the comment. And it should be withdrawn even if the health and social care professionals got this one very wrong. People have died on being incorrect Cancer drugs, do we stigmatise all oncologists and tell people to avoid appropriate treatment? There is absolutely no doubt that mental health teams up and down this country save numerous lives every year through effective interventions. They do not always get it right, tell me someone who does? Telling people to avoid accessing them is the height of irresponsibility.

    @Gladiatrix
    If you post under your real name or at least with some references to back up the issues you claim it would really aid the debate.

    @Stephen W
    According to my reading of the ECC statement it was the Italian Courts that ruled the child should stay in the UK. Surely it would be hard to return a child to the Country in those circumstances?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 3rd Dec '13 - 3:27pm

    Evan, do you think the legal, judicial and care systems are completely infallible, then? I think the fact that the comments are fairly evenly split between those who feel comfortable with the process and those, like me, who think that the facts have only added to their initial doubts is significant.

    People have to have confidence in the way the authorities operate in a liberal society. I don’t think that in this case such confidence is justified.

    What worries me is that the mother had clearly done everything that could have been expected of her and more to turn her life around and that still wasn’t enough. I still believe that the fair option would have been to return the baby to Italy to live with foster parents and leave it to the Italian authorities to decide her future beyond that. The baby may have ended up living permanently with her mother, she may not, but at least she had more of a chance of developing a long term relationship with her than she would if adopted in this country.

    Just to mention something else which we’ve discussed privately. You pulled me up for using the word brutal. I think it’s really important that we don’t lose sight of the fact that performing a caesearean against someone’s will and without their knowledge is brutal. It might in some circumstances be the least worst option, but it is always a drastic and dramatic step which will cause severe trauma.

  • Putting to one side the final resolution of this case for the mother and baby; the only victims in this.

    It is clear there can be no room for the type of complacency exhibited by Evan Harris, where it would seem that all is hunky dory, with the problem being just the press not letting the facts get in the way of good story. Whilst not seeing the rush of disclosure happening all around as various ‘professionals’ try and wash their hands in response to the media coverage as somehow vindicating the need for such coverage. The case, against the backdrop of other high profile cases against Social Services and their activities around protecting children at risk, raises serious concerns about the largely secretive operation of the various Social Service departments and their associates/proxies (the courts, medical profession and police) up and down the country.

    Given the seriousness of the allegations made in the press and the international profile of this case, it would seem to be of the utmost importance that a strong and public lead is given to show that we will scrutinise our social services and associates and if need be drag them into the 21st century. This would seem to be a natural place for Libdems to lead…

  • Evan Harris 3rd Dec '13 - 3:33pm

    @Paul Pettinger 2nd Dec ’13 – 11:07pm
    [You have helped to completely undermined your own point Evan by showing more blind faith in the state as you criticise others for showing in a press report. “Taking a child into care (and subsequent adoption) are court-supervised procedures where the best interests of the child are paramount and the parents are represented.” These are very easy words to write when you don’t know what it is like to have your life devastated by adoption. Thankfully society is continuing to move away from showing automatic deference to authority figures, whether they be clinitions, police or priests. We should all be concerned with concentrations and abuse of power, whether with the state or media.]

    I am as concerned as the next person about abuse of power, but allegations need to be based on evidence and sound argument not biased error-strewn misrepresentations in the tab;kids or anywhere else.

    I am making a plea for debating these matters in the light of the known facts and the actual procedures, not the “Social workers forced a Caesarian section and then abducted the child” bollox that has been printed.

  • Do you remember when George Bush was president?

    When Americans travelled abroad, some would pretend to be canadian.

  • Scotland seems like a nice country.

  • Evan Harris 3rd Dec '13 - 3:56pm

    @caron 3.27pm
    [“Just to mention something else which we’ve discussed privately. You pulled me up for using the word brutal. I think it’s really important that we don’t lose sight of the fact that performing a caesearean against someone’s will and without their knowledge is brutal. It might in some circumstances be the least worst option, but it is always a drastic and dramatic step which will cause severe trauma”.]

    While I can understand you distaste for the plan embarked upon here, the nature of best medical care is sometimes that there is a choice between two unpleasant management plans (or treatment options). This is especially the case when treating a patient with psychotic illness.

    You can not seriously think that the alternative to a planned C-caesarian under sedation and regional anaesthesia – that of a possibly prolonged vaginal delivery without anaesthesia – for someone who is seriously mentally ill (and possibly psychotic) is better? I can sure you that allowing that to occur could even be considered a negligent failure of care. And this possibly “brutal” as you describe it.

    I imagine there is an extensive medical literature on the appropriate obstetric care of psychosis in late pregnancy and in labour. Have you checked it out? (And I don’t mean the Daily Telegraph).

  • “Evan, do you think the legal, judicial and care systems are completely infallible, then?”

    I’m really struggling to see where Evan Harris said anything remotely like that.

    It’s very depressing to see how frequently such extreme straw-man arguments are produced on LDV.

  • Evan Harris 3rd Dec '13 - 4:05pm

    @Caron Lindsay 3rd Dec ’13 – 3:27pm
    [Evan, do you think the legal, judicial and care systems are completely infallible, then? I think the fact that the comments are fairly evenly split between those who feel comfortable with the process and those, like me, who think that the facts have only added to their initial doubts is significant.]

    No I don’t think the legal, judicial and care systems are completely infallible. I never said that. It is pretty poor straw man argument to use. My point was that it was wrong to accept unchallenged what were patently false statements made by newspapers and others with an axe to grind. And that it is good practice to have some respect for the health care professionals and the judge involved in the case, who would have made a decision based on the facts an testimony and within the legal framework.

    Same with prisoner voting and ECHR judgements which might be considered “political correctness gone mad”.

    There should be no double standard with regard to the rule of law. Challenge our judges of course, but do not prefer tabloidism over their judgements.

  • David Allen 3rd Dec '13 - 4:44pm

    “Evan .. needs to take a step back and re-view the case before he digs himself into a hole that will damage his reputation substantially.”

    Threatening words. Lib Dems are the nasty party now!

    Threatening words, used against someone who merely pointed out that you shouldn’t trust what you read in the tabloids. As far as I can see, he might just as well have picked on the “EC bans bent bananas” type of tabloid story. I don’t suppose there would be many Lib Dems in that case rushing to say “yes OK, one can’t trust the press, but nevertheless there’s no smoke without fire and so we should probably pillory the EC for what it might perhaps have decided about bent bananas”.

    You’re not looking like a party worth its place in government, you know.

  • @David Allen – What an absolutely bizarre post.

    I only hope for Evan – who I like – to re-assess his position of assumption that everything as as normal in a case that increasingly looks distinctly abnormal before he ends up defending a travesty and the tabloid media go to town on him (again).

    Everyone here knows you shouldnt trust tabloids. But many here have had dealings with councils and social services and know you shouldnt trust their knee-jerk defensive press-releases either. In fact, any good liberal should distrust the state until it can prove it is correct.

    By the way, in this thread and in this case what I see is suspiciously like a lot of men saying that removing a baby from the womb of a woman and taking it away from her forever is not a big deal. It’s interesting that the liberal-left believe that the state has no place interfering in the reproductive rights of women … until the moment before birth, and then they suddenly switch sides and seem remarkably willing to trample the rights of mothers.

  • @Evan Harris
    [You can not seriously think that the alternative to a planned C-caesarian under sedation and regional anaesthesia – that of a possibly prolonged vaginal delivery without anaesthesia – for someone who is seriously mentally ill (and possibly psychotic) is better? I can sure you that allowing that to occur could even be considered a negligent failure of care. And this possibly “brutal” as you describe it.]
    No, but transferring the patient to an Italian hospital (and avoid keeping her 5 weeks, given the premises of a pregnancy) would have been a valid alternative.

    From
    http://jolliffe.wordpress.com/2013/12/03/italian-case-amicus-curiae-submission/
    [..]
    The UK courts do not have full jurisdiction and have zero right to secret court to this county only adoption of a non UK national that is not an ICA child as it would remove nationality beyond the scope of law. This would be a breach of the child’s various rights under ECHR and our HRA.
    In international Law such an adoption would be classed as Bloodline Genocide and be a crime by the UK with jurisdiction of both the ICC and ICJ.
    [..]
    In addition if the laws of the country allow reporting in cases involving their own nationals UK courts should not act to forbid nor enable LA to restrict reporting, this would include non UK journalist to be in court here if that is allowed in that county with whatever level of reporting is normal as the UK courts do not have jurisdiction abroad. What may be contempt here is not contempt abroad that is for the non UK court..
    [..]

  • David Lamming 3rd Dec '13 - 5:12pm

    It is good that the judgment of Judge Simon Newton in Chelmsford County Court on 1 February 2013, placing P for adoption and dispensing with the parents’ consent, has now been published, At least some of the true facts of this case are now known. However, there must be at least a question mark over whether Judge Newton’s decision would withstand an appeal in the light of the later judgments of the Supreme Court in Re B [2013] 1 WLR 1911 (12 June 2013) and of a strongly-worded judgment of the Court of Appeal in Re B-S [2013] EWCA Civ 1146 (17 September 2013 – incidentally an appeal from Chelmsford County Court). It is surely vital, too, that Sir James Munby (President of the Family Division) releases for immediate publication the judgment of Mostyn J dated 23 August 2012 by which he permitted the birth by C-section.

  • Joe Otten is correct – a single judge in a hearing has imposed a life-long penalty far worse than imprisonment on a woman (and her baby) whose only crime was being ill at the wrong moment.

  • David Allen 3rd Dec '13 - 5:55pm

    “any good liberal should distrust the state until it can prove it is correct”

    Only within reason. Not at the bidding of sensationalist journalists who aren’t much bothered to get facts right. Not with repetitive accusations irrespective of the facts. That’s how UKIP have managed to convince the nation that the EC has banned bent bananas.

    “in this thread and in this case what I see is suspiciously like a lot of men saying that removing a baby from the womb of a woman and taking it away from her forever is not a big deal.”

    Look, it could be an appalling and terrible deal. It might also have been the least worst thing to do in difficult circumstances. I don’t have a clue which, if all I’ve got to go on is rubbish journalism. If I wanted to ask serious questions about the issue, I wouldn’t start by giving any credence to deliberate sensationalists. Until you actually know that a C-section wasn’t done for the same perfectly orthodox medical reasons it is usually done, talking about “removing a baby from the womb” is on a par with sub-Frankenstein horror stories.

  • @Joe Otten
    Try answering the point made.

    You said that “Anyway, the lesson we can all draw from this, is don’t seek help for any mental health problems you may have, if you want to keep your children, or value your bodily integrity.”

    “Any mental health problems”, this does clearly accuse those charged with providing any mental health treatment.

    That is not a lesson to be drawn from a single case whether it was handled correctly or not. People requiring help should be encouraged to seek it. There are avoidable issues, some hugely traumatic to both the person requiring help and other third parties each year that could, and should have been avoided. And it is not only the major incidents that should be considered, mental health issues are a huge drain on UK PLC due to high rates of linked sickness absence. Effective treatment and education for employers is making real progress in this area, advising people to avoid treatment is irresponsible.

    It is also irresponsible to generalise in such a way about services provided by some hugely dedicated professionals the length and breadth of this country. You have not established this case was indicative, yet have judged the entire system.

    Your comment went further than the specific case, or even the framework used to manage such significant incidents. Your comment related to “any mental health problem”, it is a sweeping statement, not restricted to the case in question and should be withdrawn.

    This does not preclude any real concerns about this case, many of which have been raised here without attacking the provision of mental health care as a whole.

  • Evan Harris 3rd Dec '13 - 6:33pm

    @David Lamming 3rd Dec ’13 – 5:12pm
    {there must be at least a question mark over whether Judge Newton’s decision would withstand an appeal in the light of the later judgments of the Supreme Court in Re B [2013] 1 WLR 1911 (12 June 2013) and of a strongly-worded judgment of the Court of Appeal in Re B-S [2013] EWCA Civ 1146 (17 September 2013 – incidentally an appeal from Chelmsford County Court)}

    It would be useful to know which of these two judgements (http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed114409 and
    http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2013/1146.html) referred to above would indeed undermine the legal basis or the decision in this case. Can you provide the paragraph references.

    {It is surely vital, too, that Sir James Munby (President of the Family Division) releases for immediate publication the judgment of Mostyn J dated 23 August 2012 by which he permitted the birth by C-section.]

    Would be most interesting, I agree.

  • I agree with Caron that (assuming the father or other family will not / can not take the child) that the child should be able to grow up in Italy. Again, I don’t think the facts are in the public domain.

  • From John Hemming MP’s blog today:

    http://johnhemming.blogspot.co.uk/

    Under the Vienna convention article 36 and also under Brussels II Bis revised (Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003) articles 15, 55 and 56 the Italian authorities should have been contacted about both the mother’s imprisonment and the care of the baby. However, they were not.

    {…}

    More details are coming out about the proceedings in the Italian courts. It is clear that Essex has misrepresented the court hearings in Italy. The court of first instance ruled itself not competent to rule in the matter and referred it to the tribunal in Rome who in October 2013 declared that it “cannot recognise the ruling of the English court because it is contrary to Italian and international norms of public order”.

  • Even if I, as a male, would never come into the situation, as a foreigner who frequently travels to the UK, and as someone not quite ignorant of medical issues – even if from a scientific point of view – I cannot let the comments of Evan Harris stand like that.

    Yes, she was sectioned for five weeks. But to conclude from this “this was not just a simple panic attack” is a stretch. First, due to her pregnancy, the choice of treatment options was severely limited. Some therapeutics that might have helped her are strongly counterindicated during pregancy, posing a great risk to the child. Second, her medical history was in Italy, presumably in Italian, which makes coming up with the proper treatment not precisely easier. Lastly, the Italian press cites her with the statement of having demanded her repatriation to Italy repeatedly – so she can’t have been completely oblivious to what was going on.

    The only reason UK social services had access to the child to begin with is because the woman was forcibly detained within the UK long enough to do the caesarean. Without that fact, she would have delivered the child several weeks after returning to Italy. Even IF social services believed her to be unable to raise a child, her being a national AND resident of Italy, it was not theirs nor the UK courts’ decision to make. They should have released the child to Italian authorities. Being the child of an Italian mother, it is an italian national and should not be simply forced to become a UK citizen on the basis of who its mother is. To suggest otherwise is a type of nationalistic arrogance that is nauseating for any traveler.

  • Evan Harris 3rd Dec '13 - 8:08pm

    Jonathan:
    You said “The judicial system, the health service and social services are all fallible institutions employing fallible people.
My problem with Evan’s logic is that I do not see how, under it, those mistakes would ever be revealed and put right.”

    My point was short-hand for the fact that when social services and health services get things wrong there are ways to detect that, and also ways through the courts to challenge them. There was nothing in” my logic” 
to suggest that such mistakes could not be put right. I thought you were saying that the whole system here was a conspiracy to do down parents and cover it up. Otherwise your argument is not not with my “logic”. So my reply was a short-hand way of saying that unless there is such a conspiracy, there is a rule of law here.

    I think I have replied to more commenters than may bloggers here.

  • Joe Otten 3rd Dec ’13 – 5:04pm

    It is fairly grotesque to accuse me of stigmatising anyone with my comment…. …

    … … , people will quite reasonably and rationally avoid seeking help with mental health problems.

    Hmmm. Some people might think Joe Otten is neither reasonable nor rational on this subject. If we were discussing physical health how would Joe Otten respond? When Dr Shipman for example was found guilty and sent to prison, did Joe Otten stop visiting his GP ? Did he say to people in Sheffield ” don’t seek help for any health problems you may have, if you want to stay alive ” ??

  • Richard Dean 3rd Dec '13 - 8:58pm

    People lost confidence in doctors as a result of the Shipman case, yes.

    Evan and Hacked Off is perhaps involved because they want to show the press in a bad light. Certainly there are issues about press responsibilities here, but it is not necessarily obvious to anyone when a story is “patently false”. This story is particularly distressing to many people, not just the people involved in the actual events, and the story also has the potential to damage reputations and confidence in institutions that we need to feel able to rely on, such as the medical profession and social services.

    So there are a whole load of other issues about how to handle the effects of this kind of story generally. A LibDem approach would undoubtedly involve openness, and include discussions such as this one. It doesn’t matter that Caron may have started off with incomplete information, or if her view may ir may not have been biased in some way. A discussion is not a static picture, it’s a process by which people acquire and process information and can change their views as a result.

    It’s wrong to criticise people for expressing feelings and opinions in this kind of process. We’re supposed to do that – even if our transient feelings and opinions end up changing later. What’s important for the process is that it should be allowed and encouraged to proceed, and that it should eventually come to a correct result.

    Personally I am encouraged by parliamentarians asking questions, and because ordinary people are becoming informed through the news media – for instance the story was on Sky just now. As a LibDem I think this is a good thing – much preferable to the hushing up which would be likely in a more totalitarian country. The more people get involved, the more likely it is that any mistakes will be found, and the more likely it is that things will be put right and appropriate lessons will be learned. I don’t think we’re there yet though.

  • @JohnTilley – You prove Joe’s point – yes after Harold Shpiman a lot of people trusted doctors a lot less with medicating their elderly, ill relatives. A good thing too. Always scrutinise people who have vast power over you.

  • Little Jackie Paper 3rd Dec '13 - 9:04pm

    ‘To take my children away for ever – a far worse punishment for them and me – you only need a “diagnosis”, and some speculation as to what that means for my future behaviour.’

    Mr Otten – With respect (and just to be clear here I do mean that). Not getting at you but as a matter of interest, how would you like to see difficult cases such as the one in question managed? I’m hearing a lot of criticism, I’m just not really hearing any compelling alternatives (accepting that in this particular case there is almost certainly a lot going on not in the public domain).

  • “No, but transferring the patient to an Italian hospital (and avoid keeping her 5 weeks, given the premises of a pregnancy) would have been a valid alternative”

    Ignoring the elephant in the room that this ‘she is Italian, therefore, Italy’s problem’ is a rather erroneous and moot because once in Italy, we still have a lady deemed so ill she needed to be sectioned and a baby to deal with, I do have a serious question; have you ever met a sectioned person whilst they are under a section? I am not commenting on this case in particular, but if someone is under a section, then there is a strong chance they are not someone who want on a plane. Furthermore, could someone with medical knowledge comment on the affects that using sedation drugs in unison with the stress of flying could on this lady and her baby.

    Now on to my substantive point.

    So, everyday our healthcare professionals save thousands of lives and get little to no thanks; instead, our default position is that because mistakes CAN happen they MUST have made a mistake?

    Whilst I am all in favour of open accountability (to the extent it does not further harm the victims), it actually needs to be accountability, not media led witch hunts. This went all the way to the High Court, that is a high level of accountability (and know, this would not have been one doctor with a flip-chart making the decision prior to this). The matter is STILL being investigated now. That is a high level of accountability, I am glad the matter is being taking seriously.

    However, everyone instantly concluding the decision was evil, before a full and proper review of the ‘facts’ (not the media’s almost factional horror story) has been conducted does no one any good.

    This is only going to undermine public confidence, when in actual fact it may be that this was the best outcome in a bad situation. It may be that these professionals have just saved two lives and a baby from a future of neglect. I do not know because the review has yet to be concluded and the papers are more interested in horror stories than news.

    Why is undermining the public’s confidence (unnecessarily) a bad thing? Well, because already we have a problem with getting people to seek medical assistance in this country. This is a particular issue in the area of mental health. Distorting stories like this mean people will be scared to go hospital or seek health, which will only see their conditions get worse and result in them suffering even greater harm/ having to undergone even more intensive treatment to get better. One person spoke of the problems we have with middle of the road patients in mental health – and he is right; now may be if we had better preventative measures in place, this situation would never have needed to have occurred; however, one thing is for certain, if she never seeks help, then it certainly will not occur… Now, you may think, great; however, ask yourself this, in a time when we have seen a worrying statistical increase in the number of suicides following early discharges from mental health wards due to bed storages (another worrying issue, but that is in relation to a different problem), just how bad was this women’s position for her to be there?

    This default they MUST be wrong because they CAN get it wrong mentality does no good for anyone; especially the patients in question.

    My grandfather died due to negligence on the part of NHS professionals, I have personally suffered lose due to the mistakes which CAN happen; however, this did not lead me to start joining these media witch-hunts. Why? Simply because I realise that everyone makes mistakes – and for those working in areas like the social services and NHS, when they get it wrong, people can literally die. They will live with those mistakes for the rest of their lives.

    The last thing they need is the added pressure of the world stoning them because sadly things can go wrong.

  • Joe is right that, whether justified or not, there will be people with mental illness who will be much more guarded in their dealings with the health and social services. I have bipolar and a small child and would be scared to ask for help now. Not so much on the c section issue (there are huge potential probs for a traumatic vaginal delivery and any decision is specific to the patient circumstances) but that practice seems to be that the need to adopt children quickly overrides a parents ability to demonstrate they can manage (in this case A had proposed fostering for a year so she could demonstrate compliance with meds).

  • A Social Liberal 4th Dec '13 - 1:32am

    Well, the Beeb has just said that there were no family members who could take the child on, so that should clear up the father/grandparent caring arguement.

    Salient points :-
    *The mother had already had her two other children taken from her by the Italian courts because of the trauma they had suffered . . . .”the fact that the children had had “terrible experiences”, which “has an effect on them” ” . . . . . “Historically, the mother has two other children which she is unable to care for due to orders made by the Italian authorities.”

    *The mother demonstrates ongoing symptoms of bi-polar – the fact that she had an episode in the UK demonstrates that the disease is not stabilised. . . . “Mother detained under Section 3 of the Mental Health Act on 13 June 2012”.

    *Essex County Council made extensive enquiries to see if the family in Italy could care for the newborn . . . “In accordance with Essex County Council’s Social Services practice social workers liaised extensively with the extended family before and after the birth of the baby, to establish if anyone could care for the child. “.

    *Those attempts were unsuccessful

    *The Italian courts state that the child should stay in the UK . . . . “Mother applied to Italian Courts for order to return the child to Italy in May 2013. Those courts ruled that child should remain in England “.

    I find the amount of uninformed claims posted here amazing. I only have a laymans knowledge of the Bi-polar condition but even I know that if it gets to the stage that police/social services and two seperate GPs find a sufferer at risk to themselves or others that sufferer is not able to give informed consent. Claims that British courts cannot be trusted to make a decision – what kind of arguement is that?? Yes, on occasion a court has got things wrong but does this mean that all courts must be second guessed, viewed with suspicion? Yet people on here – Liberals on here – are suggesting just that. This despite the evidence linked to on this forum that the appeals process has been followed and the appeal dismissed.

    As for the ad hominem – shame on those who employed such Tory tactics.

  • @Liberal Al

    Again I see a lot of British people missing the point here. Do you realize what is the impact of this news on the foregin community? Have you considered that pregnant ladies or people with kids may be dissuaded to cross the UK border even for a vacation?

    I do not have the competences to express judgements on UK social and medical system, but as a person living in the EU and knowing perfectly well countries where the blood and families ties cannot be so easily discarded, the decision to intern this lady, the missing transfer to an Italian facilty, the apparent lack of communication with the consulate, with the relatives and with the patient combined with the secrecy of this case (unthinkable in France, Germany or Italy) and the almost evident breach of the Vienna convention are deeply troubling.

    Citizenship jurisdiction cannot be undermined by a UK county legislation. Until alla the facts have been exposed – and so far nothing demonstrates that the consulate was involved since the beginning – people ar entitled to question any medical, legal or social decision.

    Furthermore, by reading the judgement expressed in February it appears that the adoption has been decided based on the social services implying that the woman might again stop taking the medication. This is not entirely rational IMO. With the same probability she may stop or she may as well continue the treatment. If the Italian legislation was considered, the woman would likely have benefitted of another probation period. And in any case adoption makes more sense in Italy, where it is not difficult to find suitable candidate families for the child.

    Believe me, as anti-immigration policy it is a very effective strategy. All over the world people are talking and are shocked. We even know that there were several reportages on UK families that have been broken apart for insufficient reasons.

    Tell me: why did it take more than one year for this story to become of public knowledge?

  • “Have you considered that pregnant ladies or people with kids may be dissuaded to cross the UK border even for a vacation?”

    My Slovak wife is being asked by her colleagues if she is not afraid to take our dual national children to the UK for Christmas so this is very real. The Essex story hasn’t been picked up by the press here yet but they have seen many other stories.

    I am not sure why this story is being reported and discussed whereas other child protection stories are not (I always thought they couldn’t be), but while you are in the light temporarily, I want everyone to know that this is part of how Britain is seen abroad, and that people discussing things like tourism policy, trade, and moral leadership in international foreign policy need to be aware of it.

  • Graham Evans 4th Dec '13 - 9:37am

    I do not normally look to Anne Atkins for guidance on social issues, but in the BBC’s “Thought for the Day”, I think she made a very valid criticism of the current law which makes a false dichotomy between the rights of the child and the rights of adults, and the child’s rights trump all. In effect the family counts for nothing as far as the courts are concerned. The full talk, which lasts about three minutes, is available as a BBC podcast, and I would urge all liberals to listen to it.

  • @Graham – good link.

    There are plenty in social services departments who are absolute fundamentalists when it comes to “The child’s interests are paramount”. This is an absurd mind-set to get into. A new-born child from a poor family of 6 would have its life chances *vastly* improved by removing it and placing it with an infertile rich couple who desperately want a single child. The logic of “The child’s interests are paramount” dictate that babies in that situation should be forcibly confiscated from poor families even if their parents are competent because of the increase in life chances for the child with rich childless families.

    The nanny-state liberal left in the UK appears perfectly happy to continue expanding the number of situations that warrant removal of children from their families. We aren’t far from adding “better life chances elsewhere” to the mix. It’s a disgrace.

  • @JPJ
    But Joe did not say that there would be some who would be hesitant in some circumstances. He said “the lesson we can all draw from this, is don’t seek help for any mental health problems you may have, if you want to keep your children, or value your bodily integrity”…

    Very different.

  • @a social liberal

    I’m afraid you are putting too much weight on the sheer say-so of Essex County Council. They CLAIM that Italian courts decided the child should stay in the UK. The truth is quite the contrary: Italian courts are up in arms about the conduct of the UK judiciary. The sheer fact is that they themselves have little means to compel the UK judiciary to surrender the girl. It would be the Italian government which would have to take the UK to task in the European Court of Justice for violation of Brussels II, and could additionally (though that has no direct connection to the custody issue) go to the ICJ for violation of the Vienna Convention.

    The fact is that even Judge Newton seemed awfully unaware of regulations, since the judge suggested that the procedure the woman suggested in court with a year of foster care was an idea her psychiatrist had, when in fact it is the usual procedure in Italy.

    As for her disease, the issue of her previous children is irrelevant for the case at hand. First, it was ITALIAN authorities who decided she was unable to raise children. Second, that referred to the situation back then, not to her current state. This is precisely why Italian authorities have one year of pre-adoption foster care before a final decision is made: They recognize that someone might be able to change.

    The claim that the fact that she had an episode in the UK demonstrates the disease is not stabilized is nonsense. It could hardly be stabilized back then when she was not taking medication at that time. That says little about the situation when she later appeared in court or today. There are good reasons not to take some medication against bipolar disorder during pregnancy, as they have a high risk of hurting the foetus. But whether that was the reason or sheer non-compliance, it was then, and not now. Most importantly, however, the issue of her disease is utterly irrelevant to the issue of surrendering the child to Italian authorities and leaving the decision to them.

  • @Simon, is your point that we should not make a tough decision and potentially risk the death (or serious harm) of both baby and mother because to do otherwise harms tourism?

    Now, we cannot ignore the problem that your point actually still comes down to the problem with the media – not a problem with the medical deicison made here.

    Why?

    Well. because the logical conclusion of what you are saying is that we should base our decisions on how the media will protray it internationally and the affects this has on tourism.

    Whether this was the right or wrong decision, that seems to be a far worse thing to base our decision upon.

  • To me, the treatment of an Italian guest in the UK by apparently unaccountable officials and a secret court is not merely disgraceful but is appalling. Isn’t this precisely the kind of judicial and quasi-judicial actions that WW2 was fought in order that such outrages should be avoided here? If that’s not true, please tell me why Britain fought the Axis powers.

    No, I make no comment on whether the actions of courts, social services or medics were correct. What is dangerously sinister is that such things can be kept secret – until a national newspaper unearths and exposes ‘kangaroo court’ actions. All cases of this kind must be public, but with names of relevant people expunged.

  • @Liberal Al – I think the point being made is that we need to be extra-careful in our treatment of foreign nationals, as mistreatment has repercussions over and above the mistreatment of UK nationals. After all, if you had been entrusted with the children of someone else, wouldn’t you make a special effort to look after them?

  • @Liberal Al

    How about starting with respecting international law?

  • Julian Critchley 4th Dec '13 - 4:50pm

    Evan Harris has written a very good piece here, and his attempts to suggest reason and evidence-gathering before jumping to emotive conclusions are admirable. The attacks on his integrity are pretty unpleasant and unjustified.

    There is an issue about child and patient confidentiality which means that the courts, doctors and social workers are facing an ignorant media feeding frenzy without the ability to make the full facts clear. However, even in the short time since this story broke, the picture has already changed dramatically. What’s interesting is that many aspects of the original story are now shown to be either exaggerations or downright untruths.

    What’s also interesting is that those people who nailed their colours to the mast of believing the original sensationalised story are, rather than revising their initial views in the light of emerging evidence, preferring to make like the three monkeys and become ever more strident and irrational in the defence of their original standpoint. I absolutely expect that from Tories. I’m much more surprised to see it coming from Liberals, who I always thought were the evidence-based party willing to address the fact that the world is a complex place, and simplistic black-white presentation should remain in the right-wing tabloids.

    Anyway, for those who are not aware, this story originates with Christopher Booker, the absolutely barking mad Telegraph journalist. Booker is an obsessive hater of social services, and particularly adoption, which he rants about on an almost weekly basis. He also, for what it’s worth, believes that global warming is a conspiracy, that asbestos is harmless (and its demonization also a conspiracy) and that the Theory of Evolution is (yes, you guessed it) also a conspiracy. The reason why the story was so full of inaccuracy and exaggeration is because Booker and the unpleasant Tory rag which shelters him, are quite happy to print lies and misinformation in order to whip their more ignorant followers into a frenzy. There’s a few people on this thread who perhaps might want to take a look at the people they’re standing with, and wonder whether it wouldn’t be wise to exit gracefully.

  • My point is that if we potentially did the right thing here and get punished for it, that says more about punisher than us.

    Furthermore, if we stop doing the right thing for fear of other countries punishing us for it, then we may as well give up being liberals now.

    Right now, none of us are in a position to an informed decision on whether this was the right or wrong choice, so people are going with gut reactions (never a good move) and emotions (rarely a good move). This is because even if all logic shows it was the best option in a bad situation, people will still damn it.

    If after a review of the facts, misconduct is found, then the appropriate justice must served, both to compensate the harmed parties and ensure that the bodies involved learn from the experience. What we do not want is witch-hunts led by unregulated newspapers.

  • Linda Taylor 4th Dec '13 - 5:31pm

    Evan Harris
    You are correct the only people who have all the facts are the mother, the social workers, doctors, legal profession and the judge.
    It is therefore not your place to be telling anyone that to comment on the subject is incorrect.
    Your statement “To stigmatise social services and mental health professionals in such a way is as bad as stigmatising mental health service users and perhaps even more dangerous to the public interest. It is a pity that our popular newspapers do not step into the shoes of professionals in the care sector, but Liberal Democrats might take a moment to do so” is absolute rubbish.
    To criticise a body is not the same as critising the users of that body and I am unsure as to what you leads you to think that.
    It is sad to say you have a very imbalanced view of social services and how the engineering of stealing a child is carried out with the aid of doctors, the legal profession and judges.
    The Family Courts have been made illegal by way of ensuring they are secret. Parents left without their children and barred from speaking out about their cases and those who have spoken have found themselves in prison.
    You should know how the Mental Health Act can be applied easily when parents are faced being informed they must take medication for stress/depression or the like, or they will not see their children. This is then recorded as a mental ailment which is where the Mental Health Acts come into play.
    You may have noticed Essex County Council has removed its’ statement in response to media attention, and I must ask why.
    “Taking a child into care (and subsequent adoption) are court-supervised procedures where the best interests of the child are paramount and the parents are represented”. I can assure you, forcing a child to be born before full time is not in the best interests for the child. Our immune system is not fully functioning at 8 months pregnancy and pre-term babies have more breathing problem when born. Please do you research before you repeat the excuse you have been told. No mother is fit to immediately look after her child after major abdominal surgery. Would you be?
    You seem to be under the illusion as to the massive number of children and babies stolen via the Family Courts and I suggest you find out before you form any opinion on the matter. Are you even aware the children place for adoption may not even be adopted in the UK? Talk sense or be quiet Mr. Harris.

  • @Liberal Al

    “Furthermore, if we stop doing the right thing for fear of other countries punishing us for it, then we may as well give up being liberals now.”???

    Are you for real?

    Your concept of “doing the right thing” does not sound very liberal to me. It rather sounds like a nationalist extremist who believes his own nation above such petty concerns as foreign sovereignty and international law and believes foreign countries to be ruled by inept barbarians who cannot be assumed to be capable of knowing what “the right thing”(TM) is.

    “If after a review of the facts, misconduct is found, then the appropriate justice must served, both to compensate the harmed parties and ensure that the bodies involved learn from the experience. ”

    How do you, if push comes to shove, compensate a mother for not having spent the first two years of its life with her child? How do you compensate a child for the lack of a mother during those formative years?

    How much value do you put to hearing the first spoken word of a child? How much is seeing its first steps?

  • @Julian Critchley

    “However, even in the short time since this story broke, the picture has already changed dramatically. ”

    Perhaps it seems like that if you are British. It certainly doesn’t seem like that looking in from the outside.

  • The story has changed dramatically – from being an unbelievable Nazi-eque monstrosity into just being a horribly worrying case with substantial negative implications.

  • Julian Critchley 4th Dec '13 - 8:46pm

    @Oliver

    “Perhaps it seems like that if you are British. It certainly doesn’t seem like that looking in from the outside.”

    Just because foreign tabloid readers are just as likely to jump to ill-informed, half-arsed conclusions as British tabloid readers, doesn’t change the fundamental facts here.

    As others have said, there’s a legal process. That legal process will have the full facts – far more than any punter on these boards or in the media have at present.

    It is, of course, very easy to condemn decisions like this with emotive images such as those you conjure up. And nobody wins in these situations. But every ten days in this country, a child is killed by their parent(s). When that happens, nobody gets to see the first steps or hear the first words. Including the child. And when social services fail to act in such circumstances, the same lynch mob being whipped up at the moment will be demanding heads for their failure to act. Mistakes will be made, either of being too cautious, or being too hasty. Not many people are omniscient.

    These decisions are some of the worst decisions anyone could ever have to take. That’s why there are judges and lawyers and trained professionals involved at all stages. The risk being balanced is the risk of needlessly removing a child who may well have been ok, versus the risk of having the child harmed or murdered. I wouldn’t want to take that decision, frankly, and I certainly wouldn’t want some clownish fruitcake like Booker or Hemmings taking it either.

    So how about we stop trying to make out that our partial information and no training or experience gives us a better grounding to judge than those with all the information and plenty of training and experience. If they have made a mistake in this case, then there will be action. But just consider whether the full facts of the case might have suggested to trained, experienced people, that this baby was likely to end up being one of those 30+ children who are killed, or the thousands who are badly damaged, by their parents.

    Everyone should put down their pitchforks, in my view. This is serious stuff, and not at all suitable for a superficial twitterstorm of ill-informed cod outrage.

  • @Julian Critchley – I think your bitterness towards the Lib Dem is clouding your judgement in this discussion. Calling John Hemming a “clownish fruitcake” puts you in the same category as the tabloids .

  • Jayne Mansfield 4th Dec '13 - 9:32pm

    @Stephen w
    You state, ‘ We are all discussing the case without all the first hand evidence and experts reports’.

    I agree, so why are people getting so hot under the collar or even discussing it at all.

    Hopefully, the poor woman will have had legal representation and if there is concern about the judgement made by the judge, there will be an appeal against his judgment.

    My concern is for the effect al thiisjumping to conclusions when one is not in full knowledge of the facts, may
    have on women with mental health conditions who may not now seek the treatment that they need to cure, treat or ameliorate their suffering.

    Sensationalism may sell newspapers but it is not always in the best interests of the people at the heart of the story, not the general public at large.

  • @Julian Critchley

    “Just because foreign tabloid readers are just as likely to jump to ill-informed, half-arsed conclusions as British tabloid readers, doesn’t change the fundamental facts here.”

    You are not going to improve the situation by insulting people. Quite the contrary: You are merely reinforcing the notion of this case being driven by nationalistic arrogance and the contempt for other countries.

    “As others have said, there’s a legal process. That legal process will have the full facts – far more than any punter on these boards or in the media have at present.”

    There’s a legal process by a country that should not have jurisdiction on the case to begin with.

    “It is, of course, very easy to condemn decisions like this with emotive images such as those you conjure up. And nobody wins in these situations. But every ten days in this country, a child is killed by their parent(s). When that happens, nobody gets to see the first steps or hear the first words. Including the child. And when social services fail to act in such circumstances, the same lynch mob being whipped up at the moment will be demanding heads for their failure to act. Mistakes will be made, either of being too cautious, or being too hasty. Not many people are omniscient.”

    You are doing precisely what you accuse others of – conjuring up emotive images. With that, you distract from the fact that you compare apples and oranges.

    It is something utterly different whether your services are dealing with residents of your country or whether they are dealing with people merely passing through.

    “The risk being balanced is the risk of needlessly removing a child who may well have been ok, versus the risk of having the child harmed or murdered.”

    False, precisely that is NOT the risk. It is a false dichotomy, conjured up by jingoists, who consider the authorities of other countries too incompetent or corrupt to make such a decision for their own citizens. There would be no risk whatsoever to have the child harmed or murdered by handing it over to Italian authorities and defering to their judgment. And if anything happens to the child THEN, it is not the responsibility of British institutions.

    “So how about we stop trying to make out that our partial information and no training or experience gives us a better grounding to judge than those with all the information and plenty of training and experience. If they have made a mistake in this case, then there will be action.”

    How about you start recognizing that the UK is not the only entity on this planet with capable judges, and that believing that it is the proper authority to decide the fate of a foreigner with no other connection to the UK than that it was born there because its mother was detained long enough to give birth there?

    “Everyone should put down their pitchforks, in my view. This is serious stuff, and not at all suitable for a superficial twitterstorm of ill-informed cod outrage.”

    And it is certainly not suitable to be decided based on a jingoistic reverance of one’s own country as the sole entity capable of bringing happiness to a child and the false claim that the life of the child was actually at stake here.

  • @Oliver, may I ask where your knowledge of International Law comes from? It is just that as someone who got a First in International Law, I must say, I do find your understanding of this subject area to be somewhat interesting.

    As for your argumentum ad hominem about me being nationalist extremist for me wanting more evidence before I bash someone for not wanting to see a child killed or neglected; well, I know I should not engage, but I feel I have to ask where I ever said anything about my nation’s sovereignty? I mean it is kind of hard to have any meaningful discussion here if you are not even refuting what I have said??? Please quote where I ever mentioned the words ‘national sovereignty’.

    I personally see the whole ‘she is Italian’ point as completely moot because – to be honest – a very large number of mental health patients under the NHS’s care foreign nationals. In my mind, if this was not ‘correct’ course of action, then her being Italian has little to no effect on that issue.

    Oh, and before anyone says’ send her back to Italy’, I have confirmed with a mental health expert that sending foreign nationals back to their native lands is the first position to take, unless such a course of action is unreasonable. In this case, due to her pregnancy and the level of medication that would have been required to make it safe for to travel being such that it would have endangered the baby, this would have almost certainly not have been an option in this case.

  • Jayne Mansfield 4th Dec '13 - 11:11pm

    @
    JPJ
    I actually responded to your post but posted it in the wrong place.

    In essence, I was expressing my regret that because of what has been reported about this case, despite their not being full disclosure of the facts, you now have worries because you have a bi-polar condition and have. a child. In a case like this, I would be inclined to make my judgements on the actual care I had received personally, than on case where the facts are either unknown or disputed.

    I don,t want to add anything further to this discussion . As I mentioned in my wrongly placed post, I hope that you enjoy motherhood , my personal experience has been that grandmotherhood has been even better. All the joy but none of the broken nights.

  • @Liberal Al

    “As for your argumentum ad hominem about me being nationalist extremist for me wanting more evidence before I bash someone for not wanting to see a child killed or neglected; well, I know I should not engage, but I feel I have to ask where I ever said anything about my nation’s sovereignty? ”

    There was no issue of the child being killed or neglected. The argument is a strawman.

    “I personally see the whole ‘she is Italian’ point as completely moot because – to be honest – a very large number of mental health patients under the NHS’s care foreign nationals.”

    And I don’t see how that constitutes an argument. In any case, the mother was not even a UK resident.

    “Oh, and before anyone says’ send her back to Italy’, I have confirmed with a mental health expert that sending foreign nationals back to their native lands is the first position to take, unless such a course of action is unreasonable. In this case, due to her pregnancy and the level of medication that would have been required to make it safe for to travel being such that it would have endangered the baby, this would have almost certainly not have been an option in this case.”

    Which precludes handing the baby over to Italian authorities how? In fact, as becomes evident now, local authorities wanted it seized by police the moment it was born.

  • “There was no issue of the child being killed or neglected. The argument is a strawman.”

    Wait, what? How did we reach this conclusion?

    “And I don’t see how that constitutes an argument. In any case, the mother was not even a UK resident.”

    It was a lead in point to highlight that our hospital should and will treat foreign nationals all the time, this case is no different. Or, as yet, no evidence has been presented which suggests it is any different.

    “Which precludes handing the baby over to Italian authorities how? In fact, as becomes evident now, local authorities wanted it seized by police the moment it was born.”

    Well, first, your first point does not actually engage with what I said, but anyway, it is a relevant point, so I will answer it.

    I am willing to admit (because I am not an extremist), I do not know why the courts felt it was in the baby’s best interests to remain here (I also need to read the Italian court’s judgement) – and without further evidence, I probably never will. So, clearly question marks remain over this issue, which is why the case can be appealed and further reviews conducted.

    If I was to guess (and it is a guess, not a defence or justification, nor is it a common on this being justifiable), I would say it would be because the courts felt that they could not certify the child’s safety due to problems with running the relevant checks and vetting processes on foreign nationals, due to them not being able to access the relevant information and make sufficient safety checks.

    In relation to your second point. Yes, they probably did take the child immediately, what else were they doing to do? Leave it with the unconscious mother who was under a section?

  • David Allen 5th Dec '13 - 1:00am

    This is a conflict between rational Liberalism and fundamentalist Liberalism.

    Fundamentalism does great harm to religions, and it does great harm to Liberals.

  • @Liberal Al
    “I have confirmed with a mental health expert that sending foreign nationals back to their native lands is the first position to take, unless such a course of action is unreasonable. In this case, due to her pregnancy and the level of medication that would have been required to make it safe for to travel being such that it would have endangered the baby, this would have almost certainly not have been an option in this case.”

    Thanks for that snippet of information. However, I’ve yet to be convinced beyond reasonable doubt that the woman really was so ill as to rule out an early return to Italy. Remember at present all we have is the partial (UK) psychiatric experts view that her condition was such that she needed to be sectioned. Also if we are believe the reported events, having been informed that the woman really was pregnant (and given the C-section a few weeks later most probably visibly pregnant) the police who attended took her to a psychiatric hospital rather than to a general hospital – I think any one would freak out if that happened to them and they weren’t expecting it!

    We also have a rather telling set of facts in the official records, which isn’t helped by the lack of published hard information. We have a woman presented at a hospital who is reportedly suffering because she hasn’t been taking her medicine that helps her to manage her condition to a point where she can hold down a job etc. So the normal expectation is that a resumption of the medication prescribed by her Italian doctors would rapidly stabilise her condition – yes as a precautionary measure it might be necessary to detain her in hospital for a few days or even a week, but for ten weeks? and then only releasing her a further seven weeks later so that she could return to Italy, where her poor state was noted by the Italian admitting doctors (aside: we have to question why the Guardian was unable at this point in time to also travel to Italy with the baby.). Now back in Italy and I would assume under the care of doctors who actually understood her condition and hence could medicate appropriately, the woman recovers sufficiently well to participate in care proceedings that commenced well under seventeen weeks later and has reportedly remained well todate. Demonstrating that her condition did and does respond to treatment, hence just what were the UK doctors doing?

    From family experience of Italian and UK health systems, I suspect the problem was “made in the UK”. A relative had a heart attack whilst holidaying in Italy, which was treated in Rome and he was able to return to the UK a few weeks later. However, on going to his UK doctor he found that he would not be getting the same medication as the one he had been given was too expensive for the NHS; thence followed several years of juggling whilst the UK experts found a combination of medicines that gave similar results to the drugs prescribed in Italy…

    Hence I suspect that much of the way this case unfurled is largely due to the way the woman was first treated on encountering the UK authorities and treatment approach adopted by the UK medical profession.

  • Julian Critchley 5th Dec '13 - 8:56am

    Another day, another release of actual facts, as opposed to newspaper distortion. And yet again the case seems more and more reasonable.

    However, I’m sure that those who’ve nailed their colours to the mast will continue to become ever more strident and insulting, rather than using the evidence to revise their initial erroneous and misinformed view.

  • Thanks Carl Gardner for posting the ruling. Just summarising the other two key points from the ruling.

    The woman’s other children were delivered by (elective) c-section and standard medical advice and guidance is for subsequent births to also be delivered by c-section, due to the increased risks to the mother.

    The c-section was performed at circa 39 weeks and hence medically the baby would be regarded as having reached term.

    Hence whilst there can be arguments about how the case in general unfurled, on this specific point it would seem that good medical practise was being followed, but being complicated due to the mother being unable to give informed consent.

  • A quick update reported here from steps taken by Italian lawyers.

    Italian bureaucracy and lack of responsiveness do not fail to deceive expecteations, but in short, given that the baby girl has always been a UK resident, Italian courts and consulates had no jurisdiction to act and object the adoption decision.

    It is also important to note that the Italian Court did notvalidate Newton’s decision and claim a non respect of international child protection rights.

    http://ricerca.repubblica.it/repubblica/archivio/repubblica/2013/12/04/sedata-per-partorire-cosi-litalia-abbandono-ale.html
    ____________________________________
    E si arriva al 27 settembre di quest’anno, quando il Tribunale di Roma archivia il caso di “A” ( p r o c e d i m e n t o 1026/2013). Ma nella motivazione, inviata anche al Consolato italiano, si legge: «Il distacco immediato alla nascita della bambina dal genitore si pone in insanabile contrasto con le regole fondamentali che tutelano i diritti del minore in materia adozionale».

    Aggiungendo altre parole pesantissime: «La decisione giudiziale (della corte britannica, ndr) non può essere riconosciuta per contrarietà ai principi richiamati che costituiscono parte integrante dell’ordine pubblico interno e internazionale». Ma il caso viene archiviato per il solito «difetto di giurisdizione»
    _____________________________________

    On September 27th the Court of Rome for Under Age Cases files the lawyers request ( p r o c e d i m e n t o 1026/2013).
    – sorry for the rough translation –
    “The immediate separation from the parent at birth is in insanable constrast with the fundamental rules protecting child rights in adoption-related matter”

    Then adding:
    “The decision of the British Court cannot be recognized (validated??) due to contrariety to the mentioned principles representing an integrating part of internal (national ??) and international public order.”

    Reasons for filing the case are again lack of jurisdiction.
    ___________________________________________________

  • Evan Harris 5th Dec '13 - 11:10am

    @Richard Dean 3rd Dec ’13 – 8:58pm 
.[“Evan and Hacked Off is perhaps involved because they want to show the press in a bad light”].

    Shame.

    Hacked off are not “involved” here. I always list competing interests to prevent people saying “he’s only criticising this press story because he’s the associate director of Hacked off and he’s hiding that.” Clearly did not work with you.

    I critiqued “bad science” stories in the press (eg MMR Wakefield fraud and homeopathy deceptions) long before Hacked Off existed.

    Hacked Off would love to show the press in a good light but it’s really hard when it comes to stories like this.

    @Stephen W

    I suggest you play the ball not the man and get on topic. Otherwise you are just like the trolls who attack anyone who defends medical professionals and social workers doing a difficult job.

    LDV has guidelines for comments “Focus on the topic, not what you know or think you know about the personalities of other commenters, or the author of the blog post.”

    Maybe they ignore it when the issue is controversial. Fortunately, I don’t need LDV to enforce their guidelines as I am used to this and a number of others have called this out.

    The facts were not all unknown here. They were misrepresented by the press (starting with Christopher Booker). They should never have been taken at faith value by anyone wise. It is also not unreasonable to expect sensible commentators to show the same skepticism as they do towards health care professionals acting in good faith to campaigners and soap-boxers.

    @Liberal Al 4th Dec ’13 – 12:01am 


    Well said

    And “transferring the patient to an Italian hospital (and avoid keeping her 5 weeks, given the premises of a pregnancy) would have been a valid alternative”
 is – as you say – preposterous.

    @JPJ 4th Dec ’13 – 1:05am [“Joe is right that, whether justified or not, there will be people with mental illness who will be much more guarded in their dealings with the health and social services. I have bipolar and a small child and would be scared to ask for help now.”]

    This is very unfortunate, because it is a not reaction to the true facts.

    Fortunately most people who may need to use mental health services will not have read Joe Otten’s irresponsible advice.

    @A Social Liberal 4th Dec ’13

    Well said

    [”I find the amount of uninformed claims posted here amazing.”]
    Quite.

    @Graham Evans 4th Dec ’13 – 9:37am [“I do not normally look to Anne Atkins for guidance on social issues, but … I think she made a very valid criticism of the current law which makes a false dichotomy between the rights of the child and the rights of adults, and the child’s rights trump all. In effect the family counts for nothing as far as the courts are concerned”].

    This is wrong. The law gives primacy to the rights of the child but family rights and interests and very important. In this case the family had to be displaced as the presumed carers by other factors. So you are right not to trust Anne Atkins.

    @MBoy 4th Dec ’13 – 10:26am [There are plenty in social services departments who are absolute fundamentalists when it comes to “The child’s interests are paramount”.]
    .

    1989 Children Act: Part 1 Section 1 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1989/41/section/1

    1 Welfare of the child.
    (1)When a court determines any question with respect to—
    a) the upbringing of a child; …
    ..the child’s welfare shall be the court’s paramount consideration.

    Not so much “fundamentalism” then, but the “rule of law”

    @oldgold 4th Dec ’13 – 2:18pm 
[To me, the treatment of an Italian guest in the UK by apparently unaccountable officials and a secret court is not merely disgraceful but is appalling. Isn’t this precisely the kind of judicial and quasi-judicial actions that WW2 was fought in order that such outrages should be avoided here? If that’s not true, please tell me why Britain fought the Axis powers.]


    Godwin’s law.

    @Julian Critchley 4th Dec ’13 – 4:50pm

    Well said in the main

    Linda Taylor 4th Dec ’13 – 5:31pm ‘”Evan Harris..it is therefore not your place to be telling anyone that to comment on the subject is incorrect”].


    My statement “To stigmatise social services and mental health professionals in such a way is as bad as stigmatising mental health service users and perhaps even more dangerous to the public interest. It is a pity that our popular newspapers do not step into the shoes of professionals in the care sector, but Liberal Democrats might take a moment to do so” ..

    …- as can be clearly seen in the post – was a response to Joe Otten’s generalizing comment, and was not my generalisation.

    @MBoy 4th Dec ’13 – 8:25pm 
The story has changed dramatically – from being an unbelievable Nazi-eque monstrosity into just being a horribly worrying case with substantial negative implications.

    You lost on Godwin law to 
@oldgold already. Sorry

  • @simon

    “Italian bureaucracy and lack of responsiveness do not fail to deceive expecteations, but in short, given that the baby girl has always been a UK resident, Italian courts and consulates had no jurisdiction to act and object the adoption decision.”

    Consulates get involved based on nationality, not on residence. And Brussels II certainly suggests a different course of action.

  • @Liberal Al

    “Wait, what? How did we reach this conclusion?”

    There was no issue of the child being harmed or killed because that could have been avoided easily by giving it to the responsibility of Italian authorities.

    “If I was to guess (and it is a guess, not a defence or justification, nor is it a common on this being justifiable), I would say it would be because the courts felt that they could not certify the child’s safety due to problems with running the relevant checks and vetting processes on foreign nationals, due to them not being able to access the relevant information and make sufficient safety checks.”

    Why would it be their business to do so? All they would have to check is whether a representative of, say, Italian social services, is authorized to take over the child and has the equipment to transport it safely to Italy. All other vetting processes are the business of italian authorities. There is no vetting necessary at all.

    “In relation to your second point. Yes, they probably did take the child immediately, what else were they doing to do? Leave it with the unconscious mother who was under a section?”

    The issue was taking it by police. Read the judgment published yesterday.

  • @Julian Critchley

    “However, I’m sure that those who’ve nailed their colours to the mast will continue to become ever more strident and insulting, rather than using the evidence to revise their initial erroneous and misinformed view.”

    Talk about being strident and insulting. And while I joined the discussion here rather late, my beef was never with the decision to do a caesarean – though I do have doubts that the mother was really as delusional as services claim over the entire period of time, and if yes, whether that’s not been a problem with the way she was treated. No, my beef was always with the fact that UK judges and services feel qualified and authorized to decide whether an Italian national AND resident can and should raise an Italian child in Italy.

    If the situation were reversed, Britain would be up in arms how any foreign country dare to tell British citizens what they can and can not do in their own home country.

  • @Oliver

    Thanks. I do not know why the consulate and the Court of Rome could not act against the decision, but this is their official reply. This case will likely end up in Brussel and I do share your doubts on the legitimity of forcing a child away from the father and the half-sisters when none of them constitutes a threat.

    It is not clear why UK authorities did not decide to defer the case to Italian authorites after the baby was born. Surely they are better suited to eventually give a VISA to the father, assess the situation of the family and most importantly, in case of an adoption, find a family with similar cultural background.

    The father is another victim in this story. Being an immigrant is not a permanent status and does not imply that he is bad father. I find it terrible to not give him a chance. And btw, if this case was handled by an Italian Court (as it should have) the father would have been at least able to express himself.

    I mean if we look at the outcome defined by judge Newton, a kid will grow up away from any blood relatives (father, mother, sisters, grand-parents), she will not have British citizenship unless she asks for a naturalisation at 18 (loosing her Italian citizenship too) and she will never be able to apply for Senegalese nationality.

    Are you sure that this is in her best interest?

  • I assume that the courts in Italy decided that they lack the authority to coerce British courts in any fashion. You can, after all, not get a court order against foreign courts. It might be that they could have taken the issue to European courts, but it is equally likely that these would have refused to get involved as long as there is still legal recourse available within the UK – which is why the mother was advised to seek precisely that.

    As for British citizenship, I believe if the child is adopted by British citizens, it can be registered as a British citizen, as the parents would be citizens and residents of the UK. Italy does allow dual citizenship, but not if the person holds a foreign public office or serves in a foreign country’s army.

  • @Evan – I see you deliberately avoided responding to that part of my post on how a fundamentalist interpretation of “the child’s interests are paramount” can lead to absurd outcomes. No liberal should be defending fundamentalist legal application, otherwise we will end up seizing the babies of poor African families as they pass through UK airports – in order to “give them a much better life”.

  • If it is found that Essex social services have held this woman illegally (in breach of the Vienna Convention) would we support their facing criminal charges and potentially serving prison sentences? If not why not?

  • Also, I have been away for some time but I don’t recall reading that there had been a storm flooding the channel tunnel and sinking all the ferries, so it seems that it should have been possible for her to leave the UK if she was unable to fly.

  • Tony Dawson 5th Dec '13 - 9:29pm

    We are very lucky to have such a balanced head of the Family Division of he High Court. His predecessor had an awful lot to answer for.

  • Just read the protocol released yesterday again and stumbled upon this:

    “MISS BURNHAM: My Lord, it is said that she suffers from a schizophrenic disorder, which is psychotic in nature and she is currently under section 3. My Lord, that is as detailed as the identification of the disorder goes. It is in the report of Dr. Adimulam, which is at your clip 4. It is the second document entitled “private and confidential”.”

    Do I interpret this correctly that by the time of the hearing they had NOT identified her problem as bipolar disorder?

  • No, Oliver you do not read it correctly. It is saying she was selected due to her schizophrenic disorder. Oh – and I would also recommend against reading the advocates speeches for information. Unless you have an advocate who is amazing at functional advocacy, it is generally more helpful to read the actual judgement.

    She had been diagnosed as bipolar many year prior in Italy (bipolar disorders are a form of depression, whilst schizophrenic disorders are the breakdown of thought processes, they are completely different). So, all this shows is that yet another important piece of information was wilfully ignored by the media. (As for your point about how evil it is for British people decide anything relating to an Italian individual… What was your point about nationalistic extremism, again?)

    “Richard S 5th Dec ’13 – 9:18pm
    Also, I have been away for some time but I don’t recall reading that there had been a storm flooding the channel tunnel and sinking all the ferries, so it seems that it should have been possible for her to leave the UK if she was unable to fly.”

    Yes, an 18 hour trip by bus and ferry across land and water sounds just ideal for a pregnant lady with a rupturing vagina, a schizophrenic disorder and a bipolar disorder.

    Seriously, I know that not many of us here studied medicine, but surely even those with the most basic grasp of simple logic can work out this is not a good idea.

  • @Liberal Al,

    Yes but she wasn’t rupturing 5 weeks before she had the baby.

    In terms of the treating doctors at the birth, then ok, if one is presented with a woman who has been held illegally for 5 weeks, away from her own obstetrician and relatives in another country, and that person is unable to make a decision for themselves but has previously had 2 caesarian deliveries, then one

    I would like to ask, if the position of social services is so defensible then why did they take the decision to break the law by not informing the Italian government that they had captured one of their citizens?

    It matters that she is Italian because family law matters are normally decided in the place where the people concerned are domiciled. People don’t expect to have to do research on family law before visiting a country for two weeks. It would be totally unacceptable for us for a British family on a two week holiday to Spain to lose a child into the Spanish adoption system, and not just because we are all nationalists but because the suitability of the parents can be best judged by a court in the child’s own country.
    The craziest thing about the judgement is that the difficulty finding someone to adopt the child form what the (presumably somewhat elderly) judge describes as the Italian race would be completely absent if the mother had been able to return to her own country with her child and have her suitability judged there.

  • second paragraph should end “one has to make the decision to do a caesarian for her”

  • Gavin Barrass 6th Dec '13 - 9:33am

    Thank goodness for Evan Harris, I have been hugely troubled by the almost paranoid distrust of the state and beyond which has become increasingly dominant in the party that I have been very close to resigning my membership after being a member for almost half my life. A distrust which I cannot see not being reflected in a general view of humanity and specific professions. After all these apparently evil actions need to be carried out by someone, I wonder what some members/supporters think of these people. Either we raise ourselves above others which is arrogant and foolish or we we have a devalued image of ourselves and our society which I do not recognise.

    Thanks Evan for restoring my faith in some parts of the party.

  • @Liberal Al
    “Yes, an 18 hour trip by bus and ferry across land and water sounds just ideal for a pregnant lady with a rupturing vagina, a schizophrenic disorder and a bipolar disorder.”

    No need for the melodrama. The lady didn’t have a rupturing vagina, the c-section was authorised so avoid the increased risk of a ruptured womb (and in this case other potential complications) arising from a vaginal birth where the mother has previous had a c-section .

    Oliver has a point, the hearing was ten weeks after her first admission – plenty of time for the UK medical experts to have liaised with the woman’s Italian doctors and hence establish the actual underlying condition and stabilise it sufficiently to enable emergency repatriation. As I have pointed out previously, there are aspects of this case that do raise awkward questions for which answers are needed.

    Because of the personal nature of this case, whilst people may want everything to be published (and theguilty punished), it is unlikely to happen; that doesn’t mean that an independent investigation cannot be undertaken only that ‘we’ need to have confidence in the investigating team. Given the nature of this case ‘we’ means not just the UK public but a wider international audience.

  • @Carold Lindsay
    “Surely it would have been fairer for the child to be placed with Italian foster parents and then for the Italian authorities to decide what was to be done. It was noted that the mother was well and had a secure job and was taking her medication well. She did all of that, turned her life around and still didn’t gain access to her baby. What sort of justice is that?”

    That really means bein completely ignorant about another country’s laws, you are trying to act as a politically correct person yet with no notion of what that could mean in reality! Court of Florence in Tuscany deemed this woman ‘unable’ to care for two other children. She has a history of mental illness and she was deprived of the custody of her children because she is unfit as a parent! You don’t turn your life around in 30 seconds! This woman has no secure job (she said so, a ‘badante’ in Italian means taking care of an elderly person and being paid per hour or as live-in carer… you’ve no contract, mind you, so how can that be considered safe?).
    Italian foster places are like prisons… given the bureaucracy, it takes years to an Italian family to adopt an Italian baby/child! If you don’t believe me, google adoption in Italy, the wikipedia link is quite enlightening.

  • @Liberal Al

    Sorry, but your point seems a bit confused. Yes, she has been diagnosed years ago in Italy. The point is: Where her doctors in the UK aware of that diagnosis? I am not sure what you believe to have been ignored by the media – the fact that she had bipolar disorder was reported in some of the first day reports.

    As you point out yourself, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are two distinct illnesses – they are treated in a different fashion.

    And I am not sure what your point about national extremism is. If some foreign court would decide to tell a british citizen what they can or cannot do while in Britain, the British public would be up in arms. They regularly are when a European court does, despite the fact that Westminster has authorized these courts to make such decisions. Quite the contrary to ordinary courts in Italy, France, Germany or wherever. And if you see “nationalist extremism” on my part – you should check the definition. Given that I am neither British nor Italian, your argument would be a joke.

  • @Sara

    I’m not sure where to begin other than by saying I doubt you have any idea how you come across. You slander people and whole countries and then try to justify it by “go google”. Well, with that argument, people have “proven” that the moon landing never happened. And that’s the harmless version of that rebuttal.

    You conveniently ignore that the other children are a wee bit older than 30 seconds and that the lady was not in the UK as a tourist but for professional education. It seems you are quite happy that her whole future has been trashed and feel compelled to give her a solid kick in the back. I’m not sure that’s the type of personality you want to come across as, but you are in contempt of even the British court who refused to give her back her daughter.

    Incidentally, the reason it takes quite a while to adopt a child is that the children are placed in a pre-adoption foster care while the court assesses the whole situation and only then decides whether they should be adopted or not. They do not judge the mother based on a snapshot.

  • Tubby Isaacs 6th Dec '13 - 11:51pm

    http://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/in_the_news/1929734-Child-taken-by-from-womb-by-forced-C-S-for-social-services-II?pg=12

    About page 25 onwards, it gets really classy. John Hemming threatens to sue a poster and report her to the Bar Council.

    Well done, Evan.

    Surely the rest of you, with “new politics” and all, need to get Clegg to discipline Hemming. He has previous.

  • Ruth Bright 7th Dec '13 - 2:56pm

    It is strange to query Caron’s use of the word brutality. Even an emergency section with consent is pretty brutal (as is producing milk for an absent newborn deeply distressing) or does Evan think medical staff always yank out a baby with scented candles and classical music playing in the background?

  • Evan Harris 9th Dec '13 - 7:57am

    @Ruth Bright 7th Dec ’13 – 2:56pm
    [“It is strange to query Caron’s use of the word brutality. Even an emergency section with consent is pretty brutal (as is producing milk for an absent newborn deeply distressing) or does Evan think medical staff always yank out a baby with scented candles and classical music playing in the background?”]

    Yes much of surgery is gory, and emergency procedures are no exception. I took the word “brutal” to suggest “cruelty” which it self implies malice.

    Psychotic or manic illness is a very cruel condition and the treatment and management of such cases is not straightforward. i am full of admiration for the medical and caring staff who work in this difficult field. It is unfair and actually quite nasty to label their work as cruel or brutal , whether in general or – without good evidence – in a specific case.

    It is not OK to stigmatise mental health care workers.

  • Effectively Sara is saying that the Italian government does not meet the standards of care we require and should have its kids taken off it by social services. Incredible.

  • “Lack of children’s exercise policy is ‘child neglect'”

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-25316238

    So when do we start taking children from their families because they aren’t getting enough exercise? After all: “the child’s interests are paramount”. Or, maybe, we shouldn’t be fundamentalist about that principle?

  • Ruth Bright 11th Dec '13 - 1:04am

    Evan, I work with people with dementia and a close relative of mine works at a secure unit for offenders with mental health problems at no point did I stigmatise the work of those who work in the mental health field. My concern was the violation that occurred as a result of forced surgery at the behest of the state. My reference was to my own experience of disorientation after an emergency section (where I gave consent ) and of the trauma of producing milk for an absent baby (absent in my case because it was too ill to feed).

  • Evan Harris 11th Dec '13 - 8:46am

    @Ruth Bright
    [“It is strange to query Caron’s use of the word brutality. Even an emergency section with consent is pretty brutal (as is producing milk for an absent newborn deeply distressing) or does Evan think medical staff always yank out a baby with scented candles and classical music playing in the background?”]
    and
    [“My concern was the violation that occurred as a result of forced surgery at the behest of the state.”]

    I don’t think it is *fair* to call court-approved emergency surgery on the basis of best interests, on someone who has no capacity to give or withhold consent, *brutal*. The ethical and legal position is in essence identical to such procedures on new-borns, those with dementia or in comas or unconscious or those with severe learning disability. It may be more *traumatic* and *stressful* for the patient (and thus more stressful for the medical and nursing staff) in the case of someone with mental illness who lacks capacity (and in fact young children who “refuse” treatment), where it involves surgery and where it involves pregnancy.

    May be we can agree that “traumatic” and “stressful” are fairer words than “brutal”?

  • @Evan

    The legal implications for someone who is unconscious, otherwise in a coma or incapable of making their own decision AND is from a foreign nation is that the consulate be notified of that fact. This is not the least so as that the consulate can provide legal aid not beholden to local authorities.

  • Anyone who doesn’t think this is sinister as heck should go and live in North Korea. If this was in North Korea, you wouldn’t all be sitting around looking for excuses – you’d be condemning this. The fact is that social services are not all nice people, judges ARE too willing to automatically do what they say (a judge trying to DEFEND courts against this view actually proved this in his statement about social services being amazing etc. with no regard for the fact that there are really screwed-in-the-head social workers who should not be in the profession), and WHATEVER THE EXCUSE, social services had NO RIGHT WHATSOEVER to TAKE A BABY FROM A WOMB. Again, so you listen: FROM HER WOMB. They also didn’t contact social services in Italy not hand over the baby to them but quickly put the baby up for adoption in the UK instead. This is CLEARLY about those sinister adoption targets. The most recent judge even ADMITTED that the Italian mother had proved she was now stable, yet still refused to hand the baby back.

    As for how long she’d been sectioned – you know, or should know very well that when a person is sectioned under the Mental Health Act it’s VERY easy to keep them sectioned even if they are sane. And these judges in the Court of Protection are out of control – just look at the case of Wanda Maddocks, jailed in secret for trying to help her father.

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