Press one of the expand buttons to see the full text of an article. Later press collapse to revert to the original form. The buttons below expand or collapse all articles.
Frivolous Family Break-Up
February 25, 2008 permalink
In another now-routine story, Louise Mason had her three children taken into foster care for no valid reason. At least they lucked out and avoided the fate of the foster kids in our other British story today, being entombed in a cellar. Even after legal reunification, one girl was too alienated to live with her mother.
Nightmare of mother wrongly accused of abuse
By Tom Peterkin, Ireland Correspondent, Last Updated: 3:34am GMT 26/02/2008
A mother told yesterday how she endured five years of hell after she was wrongly accused of injuring her newborn baby and her children were taken into care.
Louise Mason was alleged to have deliberately harmed her four-week-old daughter when the child became ill and doctors suspected she had been abused.
Despite her protestations that she had not hurt the girl, Miss Mason was charged with two counts of causing grievous bodily harm to her baby and had to fight through the courts to clear her name.
Yet even when she won the case, she was still not allowed to care for her children.
Miss Mason's ordeal began in October 2002 when her baby became ill with internal bleeding and was taken to Altnagelvin Hospital, Co Londonderry, and then to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Belfast.
At first she was told her daughter was suffering from neuroblastoma, a form of cancer, but a few days later a doctor asked her if "anything had happened" to the baby.
Miss Mason said: "I was told social services and the police had been called.
"I didn't know what this was about, but it was very distressing. They thought it was a non-accidental injury and that someone had hurt the baby on purpose. I was shocked."
Her baby remained in hospital for a further six weeks, but in the meantime a court order was obtained and the girl was put under the care of foster parents, along with Miss Mason's oldest child, then aged 20 months. Miss Mason, 38, who is originally from Northampton, said: "You simply do not think that one moment you can be a normal mother bringing up your children and the next moment you are being portrayed as this big monster."
In 2004 Miss Mason appeared in court, where the jury was told how the injuries inflicted on the baby were consistent with it being dropped from a first-floor window.
She was unanimously acquitted on both charges, but her two children remained in care. When Miss Mason had a third child in February 2006, the baby was handed over for fostering at just 10 days old.
Miss Mason began an attempt to get her children back but the care order was still in place and Foyle Health and Social Services Trust in Londonderry had applied for adoption papers to be served on the eldest pair.
A breakthrough came when the doctor who had first treated Miss Mason's baby and made the neuroblastoma diagnosis contacted her lawyer.
The medic, known as Dr D, expressed concerns that investigations for the cancer not been carried out.
He also advised that independent paediatricians should re-examine the evidence and during this investigation it was suggested that a naturally occurring spontaneous haemorrhage caused the baby's illness.
This enabled Miss Mason's legal team to persuade the courts to adjourn the adoption papers and, in March 2006, the care order was quashed and the case was remitted to the High Court.
This week Mr Justice Gillen reheard the case in Belfast and allowed the children, now aged seven, five and two, to go back to their mother.
However, Miss Mason is still struggling because although her second child overcame her illness, the girl has formed a strong relationship with her foster parents.
The girl's only overnight stay with Miss Mason saw "uncontrollable sobbing" and contact is limited to twice a week until they become more familiar with each other.
Miss Mason, who split from the children's father and is in a new relationship, added: "I suppose I'm happy the way things have turned out. My life's now normal compared to what it used to be."
Source: Daily Telegraph