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Court dismisses "draconian order" to take newborn from parents

Court dismisses

Friday 11 October 2019

Court dismisses "draconian order" to take newborn from parents


The Royal Court has refused to take a baby boy away from his parents just days after his birth, concluding there wasn't enough evidence the "draconian order" would be in his best interest.

The Minister for Health and Social Services, Deputy Richard Renouf, had applied to take the newborn baby away from his parents, while he was still on the maternity ward at the hospital.

The care plan for Peter* suggested putting him in the care of a foster family and allowing his parents to see him three times a week. 

The Minister had made his application on the basis that the mother had emotional difficulties which had led to her first born being adopted as part of care proceedings. Her relationship with the new born’s father, which “featured domestic abuse” and evidence of poor dynamics within the wider family, were also of concern to the Minister.  

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Pictured: The Health Minister applied to the Royal Court to take the newborn away shortly after his birth.

Royal Court Commissioner, Julian Clyde-Smith, sitting with Jurats Jerry Ramsden and Pam Pitman, heard the application but eventually dismissed it over a lack of evidence that it would be in Peter’s best interests.

The Court heard from the mother herself, the Children’s Services as well as Dr James Murray, a consultant clinical psychologist, who wrote a psychological report on the parents. 

Dr Murray concluded that the father didn’t have a mental illness and didn’t pose a risk to Peter. While he also concluded the mother was not experiencing any mental illnesses, he said she was showing “a pattern of behaviour indicative of considerable psychological dysfunction”, which the stresses of caring for a new baby could make worse.  

He however suggested assessing the mother’s “daily living skills” adding there was “a considerable chance” she could care for her baby, if she was given the necessary support. Dr Murray recommended this be done in the island with the father’s involvement to give the “placement” all chances to succeed.

Dr Murray also said the parents should be helped in maintaining their relationship, which he said was of “mutual benefit and support to them”, despite “difficult points". 

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Pictured: Dr Murray said there was "considerable chance" the mother could care for her baby.

The Court heard that Peter’s maternal and paternal grandparents had both agreed to be considered as his carers, as well as the mother’s paternal grandparents, but none had been assessed. 

Advocate Alexander English, who was representing Peter’s father, opposed the application, referring to cases that described removing a child from his mother at or shortly after birth “a draconian and extremely harsh measure which demands ‘extraordinarily compelling’ justification.”

The same judgment described such a removal as “dreadful” for the baby, the mother and the father.

The mother also didn’t want Peter taken away as she feared the limited contact would “set her up to fail” and would not give him the best opportunity “of being parented by his natural parents".

Advocate Barbara Corbett, who was appointed to represent Peter, told Court his guardian did not support the immediate removal and suggested both parents be assessed in their homes.

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Pictured: The Court concluded Peter's safety did not demand "his immediate removal".

In their judgment, the Royal Court said an order could only be made if it was both “necessary and proportionate” and no “other less radical order” would be in the best interest of the child.

They noted that nothing in Dr Murray’s report suggested Peter’s safety would be in danger if he wasn’t immediately removed from his parents.

They eventually ruled against making the “draconian order”, taking into account “the mother’s lack of legal representation, the absence of any considered advice from the guardian and the absence of compelling evidence”. 

“With the parents and the Child able to live in the paternal grandparents’ home, and in the context of the wider family assessments in progress, we were not convinced that the Child’s safety demanded his immediate removal,” they wrote. 

They therefore asked the Minister to reconsider the care plan and adjourned the proceedings for an interim care order.  

* Name changed to protect anonymity.

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