Judge intervenes in adoption case

The country's top family judge has intervened in the case of a mentally-ill mother who had to deliver an unborn child by Caesarean section by order of a court.

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John Hemming MP welcomed the transfer of the case to the High Court in London

The country's top family judge has intervened in the case of a mentally-ill mother who had to deliver an unborn child by Caesarean section by order of a court.

A local authority said the move was necessary because of concerns about "risks to mother and child".

The girl, now 15 months old, is being put up for adoption despite opposition from the mother, who is an Italian national.

But a spokesman for the Judiciary said tonight: "The proceedings are not yet concluded. The President of the Family Division has ordered that the matter be transferred to the High Court and any further applications in respect of the child are to be heard by him."

Earlier, Essex County Council issued a statement following headline-grabbing weekend reports that the child was "forcibly removed" from her mother by social workers.

The council said: "The long-term safety and wellbeing of children is always Essex County Council's priority. Adoption is never considered until we have exhausted all other options and is never pursued lightly."

Newspapers said the woman came to Britain in summer 2012 to attend a training course with an airline at Stansted Airport in Essex.

She had a panic attack, which her relations believe was due to her failure to take regular medication for an existing bipolar condition.

She was taken to a psychiatric facility and was restrained and sectioned under the Mental Health Act on June 13 2012.

Five weeks later it was the trust's clinical decision to apply to the High Court for permission to deliver the unborn child by Caesarean section "because of concerns about risk to mother and child", said the council.

The mother was able to see her daughter, who was now in the care of Essex social services, on the day of birth and the following day.

Social services obtained an interim care order from Chelmsford county court in August 2012 "because the mother was too unwell to care for her child", said the council.

The mother went back to Italy, then returned to Britain to seek the return of her daughter.

But a judge ruled in February this year that the girl should be placed for adoption because of the risk that the woman might suffer a relapse.

The mother applied to the Italian courts for the return of her child in May, but the Italian judiciary ruled she should remain in England.

County court permission to place her for adoption was obtained in October, said the council.

"Historically, the mother has two other children which she is unable to care for due to orders made by the Italian authorities.

"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."

Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming has taken up the mother's case and said tonight that he welcomed the transfer of the case to the High Court in London.

He said: "The appointment of the president of the family division was a very positive step and I am certain that any applications to him will be heard justly.

"I remain concerned that many decisions taken by the family courts are taken by the magistrates' court (the family proceedings court) and are then appealed to the county court.

"This means that domestic proceedings can be exhausted without a case getting out of the area in which it is considered.

"This means that there is never any public judgment and the case in the UK has come to an end. All that people can then do is to take their case to Strasbourg."

He also criticised Essex council for failing "to follow proper proceedings".

He said: "The rules are straightforward when it comes to foreign nationals and care proceedings.

"The foreign country concerned should be contacted through their central authority (in Italy's case part of the Justice Ministry). This clearly did not happen and for this Essex County Council are clearly in the wrong.

"Essex have not managed to explain why no-one in the wider extended family was competent to look after the baby when they were already looking after two of her siblings.

"Additionally Essex have not explained why this baby was in their control to get adopted when the mother always intended to return to Italy."