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Laws Don't Apply to Social Workers

April 3, 2012 permalink

In their enthusiasm to seize a baby from a couple who fled Britain, British social workers cut legal corners to retrieve a baby born in France.



UK social workers snatch a child from France

A baby born in France has been seized by English authorities in a landmark case.

Family torn apart
English social workers seized a newborn baby from its mother in France Photo: ALAMY

An English court recently made legal history by using EU law to authorise social workers to travel across the Channel to snatch a baby from its English parents, even though it was born in France. I have often written about pregnant mothers fleeing abroad to avoid their babies being seized as soon as they are born. But social workers have never been authorised before to track down a baby abroad to return it to a country where it has never lived. In this ground-breaking case, however, they may have overstepped the mark.

The couple emigrated to France last year when the woman became pregnant, to live with the man’s mother. They feared that if they stayed in England their child would be seized, on grounds they believed to be highly questionable. The social workers, however, were not to be deterred. After the baby’s birth, two of them arrived in France, bent on taking it back with them.

The French authorities opposed the removal of a child born in France to another country where it had no “habitual residence”. A French court agreed, though, that it should be put in local foster care until the legal issues were resolved. The social workers, insisting that they had legal authority, nevertheless took the baby back to England.

Only last week, I am told, did the distraught parents at last see the document which supposedly authorised this: a court declaration made under Article 39 of EU Regulation 2201/2003 (known in the trade as “Brussels II”). But Articles 39 and 42 of this regulation clearly lay down that such a removal from one EU country to another can only take place when “the parties” have been present in court, and that the order has been properly served on them. In this case, I gather, the parents had no knowledge of the order until after their child was taken to England.

So eager were the English social workers and courts to lay hold of this child that it seems they may have failed to follow the procedures laid down by EU law. This unhappy case could make legal history in ways they did not anticipate.

Source: Telegraph (UK)

Addendum: In a later article Mr Booker identified the parents in this case as Joe Ollis and Marie Black,