Social workers snatched mother’s baby from her minutes after birth with no warning because ‘they thought she might kill herself if she discovered what they were planning’

  • First of its kind secret court decision meant mother was not told of plans
  • Council feared woman might kill herself if they knew baby would be taken
  • Newborn was taken last month but decision was only made public today
  • Campaigners attack secrecy insisting other options should have been tried
Social workers gave a mother no prior warning before taking away her baby minutes after her birth, it emerged today.
Following an unprecedented secret court ruling, authorities told neither the woman nor her family of their plans.
The move was attacked by campaigners today, who said alternative methods of looking after both mother and baby should have been tried.
It emerged today that the mother’s low IQ and history of mental illness prompted North Somerset Council to petition courts for the right to take her baby daughter into care from birth.
But the local authority went to what has been called the ‘extremity of what is permissible’ in law to obtain the order in secret.
The gagging order – a legal first – meant the 24-year-old mum was given no warning her baby would be taken and no opportunity to fight the order.
It is understood the authorities took the ‘draconian’ steps in secret because they feared the mother would commit suicide if she discovered her baby would be removed.
But maternity groups labelled the move an ‘absolute scandal’ and a sign of a worrying and growing trend for secret hearings.

The Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services slammed the move, saying said the mother should have been given a chance to mount a legal defence. 

Jean Robinson, president of the campaign group, said she thought it was the very first time a gagging order has been used in this way.
She said: ‘I gather the fear in this case was that the mother would commit suicide if she knew. Of course, she is quite likely to do so now her baby has been taken away.

The High Court ruled the woman should not be told of social workers plans to take her baby after birth

‘The secret hearing does not give the mother any opportunity to instruct solicitors to prevent it, or even approach solicitors or even her own family member to create an alternative.
‘There may well have been no alternative, but of course the problem is that was never explored. The fact that the mother only found out the moment she had given birth, it’s terrible.
‘Of course the baby’s life was saved, but what about the mother? Suicide is one of the major causes of death associated with child birth. Social services taking babies is actually killing mothers.
‘It is scandalous in this country that there aren’t more mother and baby psychiatric units. She would have got appropriate care and the baby could have been kept safe.
‘I am sure the judge was not told about that option. I gather with her problems she would have lost the baby anyway, but it would not have been in such dramatic circumstances.
‘It is an absolute scandal. We have had a number of ghastly cases recently, but this is the first one I have heard where a gagging order has been applied pre-birth.’
The court order was granted in April and the child taken in May, but the gagging order has only this week been lifted, allowing the secret order to be reported.

North Somerset Council refused to comment on the case but said such decisions were 'rarely straighforward'

Granting the order, High Court Judge Michael Joseph Keehan admitted it was ‘draconian’ and ‘at the extremity of what is permissible under the European Convention’.
He said: ‘I recognise the order sought by the local authority is extremely unusual. I am in no doubt whatsoever that the order sought by the local authority was a proportionate response to the identified risks and was essential to secure the child’s safety.
‘In those circumstances I am satisfied that if the mother were to learn of the plan to remove her child at birth there is a very real risk she would harm herself and a very, very real risk she would cause physical harm to her baby.’
The Daily Mail has campaigned against secret courts

A spokesman for North Somerset Council refused to comment on the individual case, but said: ‘Cases such as this are rarely straightforward, and the decision on whether it is best for a child to remain with its birth parent or be taken into care is never taken without extensive consideration.

‘The care of a child only transfers to the council when all options have been considered and with the court’s agreement.’The Daily Mail has campaigned against secret courts and exposed a series of major scandals over the past year resulting from justice being conducted behind closed doors.Earlier this week it emerged two men, known only as AB and CD, are due to enter a dock at the Old Bailey on June 16 accused of a terror plot.

But the case will be held in secret and the public will not even know the men’s names for unknown ‘national security’ reasons.

And last year it was revealed that social services in Essex forcibly delivered a baby by caesarean section because of fears over her mother’s mental health, following a court ruling that was kept secret for months.

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