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Cesarean Baby Snatching
November 30, 2013 permalink
Historian Richard K Stephens coined the term Cesarean kidnapping for a crime in which an aspiring mother attacks a pregnant woman to cut open her belly and steal the baby. Britain forcibly confined a pregnant Italian woman in a psychiatric hospital, then drugged her and cut out her baby for adoption without her knowledge or consent. Expand for an investigative report by Christopher Booker, news by Colin Freeman and commentary by John Hemming.
Italian news sources give the mother's name as Alessandra Pacchieri. She called her baby Amelia.
'Operate on this mother so that we can take her baby’
A mother was given a caesarean section while unconscious - then social services put her baby into care
Last summer a pregnant Italian mother flew to England for a two-week Ryanair training course at Stansted. Staying at an airport hotel, she had something of a panic attack when she couldn’t find the passports for her two daughters, who were with her mother back in Italy. She called the police, who arrived at her room when she was on the phone to her mother. The police asked to speak to the grandmother, who explained that her daughter was probably over-excited because she suffered from a “bipolar” condition and hadn’t been taking her medication to calm her down.
The police told the mother that they were taking her to hospital to “make sure that the baby was OK”. On arrival, she was startled to see that it was a psychiatric hospital, and said she wanted to go back to her hotel. She was restrained by orderlies, sectioned under the Mental Health Act and told that she must stay in the hospital.
By now Essex social services were involved, and five weeks later she was told she could not have breakfast that day. When no explanation was forthcoming, she volubly protested. She was strapped down and forcibly sedated, and when she woke up hours later, found she was in a different hospital and that her baby had been removed by caesarean section while she was unconscious and taken into care by social workers. She was not allowed to see her baby daughter, and later learnt that a High Court judge, Mr Justice Mostyn, had given the social workers permission to arrange for the child to be delivered. In October, at a hearing before another judge, she was represented by lawyers assigned to her by the local authority and told she would be escorted back to Italy without her baby.
All this was such a shock to the mother that, back in Italy, she resumed taking her medication and embarked on a legal battle for the return of her daughter, which has by now involved lawyers in three countries, all of whom I have spoken to at length to establish the facts of this remarkable story. The High Court in Rome expressed outrage at what had been done to an Italian citizen “habitually resident” in Italy. But the judge there concluded that, since she had not protested at the time, she had accepted that the British courts had jurisdiction – even though she had not known what was to be done to her, was deemed to have no “capacity” to instruct lawyers because she had been sectioned, and had only been represented by solicitors assigned to her by the local authority.
In February, when the mother returned to Chelmsford to plead for the return of her daughter, the judge, I am told, admitted that, since resuming her medication, she seemed impressively articulate and a different person from the one he had seen earlier. But, because he could not risk a failure to maintain her medication in the future, he ruled that the child must be placed for adoption.
By now a new twist had entered the story. Supported by the mother, her American husband – from whom she is amicably separated, and who is the father of her eldest daughter – asked that the baby be sent to Los Angeles to live with his sister, herself a very capable mother, described by her US lawyer as “a rock”. British law is clear that wherever possible children should be adopted by members of their wider family. But in March, Essex social services ruled that this was unacceptable because, even though she was the aunt of the baby’s stepsister, the American woman had no “blood” tie to the baby. So, rather than allow the child to be looked after by her “kin”, she must be sent to live with complete strangers.
Since the adoption process is not yet complete, the mother has now, in a final attempt to get the British court’s ruling reversed, called in Brendan Fleming, the most formidable of the few British solicitors prepared to fight for parents whose children have been seized by social workers for seemingly no good reason. Also now involved is John Hemming MP, who has previously helped other foreign parents to win back their children from Britain’s “child protection” system, on the grounds that the UK courts have no jurisdiction over them. He describes this story, of the mother whose baby was forcibly delivered while she lay unconscious, as “extraordinary, unlike any other case I have come across, and one I hope to raise in Parliament”.
Source: Telegraph (UK)
Woman has child taken from her womb by social services
Exclusive: Essex social services have obtained a court order against a woman that allowed her to be forcibly sedated and for her child to be taken from her womb by caesarean section
A pregnant woman has had her baby forcibly removed by caesarean section by social workers.
Essex social services obtained a High Court order against the woman that allowed her to be forcibly sedated and her child to be taken from her womb.
The council said it was acting in the best interests of the woman, an Italian who was in Britain on a work trip, because she had suffered a mental breakdown.
The baby girl, now 15 months old, is still in the care of social services, who are refusing to give her back to the mother, even though she claims to have made a full recovery.
The case has developed into an international legal row, with lawyers for the woman describing it as “unprecedented”.
They claim that even if the council had been acting in the woman’s best interests, officials should have consulted her family beforehand and also involved Italian social services, who would be better-placed to look after the child.
Brendan Fleming, the woman’s British lawyer, told The Sunday Telegraph: “I have never heard of anything like this in all my 40 years in the job.
“I can understand if someone is very ill that they may not be able to consent to a medical procedure, but a forced caesarean is unprecedented.
“If there were concerns about the care of this child by an Italian mother, then the better plan would have been for the authorities here to have notified social services in Italy and for the child to have been taken back there.”
The case, reported by Christopher Booker in his column in The Sunday Telegraph today, raises fresh questions about the extent of social workers’ powers.
It will be raised in Parliament this week by John Hemming, a Liberal Democrat MP. He chairs the Public Family Law Reform Coordinating Campaign, which wants reform and greater openness in court proceedings involving family matters.
He said: “I have seen a number of cases of abuses of people’s rights in the family courts, but this has to be one of the more extreme.
“It involves the Court of Protection authorising a caesarean section without the person concerned being made aware of what was proposed. I worry about the way these decisions about a person’s mental capacity are being taken without any apparent concern as to the effect on the individual being affected.”
The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is an Italian national who come to Britain in July last year to attend a training course with an airline at Stansted Airport in Essex.
She suffered a panic attack, which her relations believe was due to her failure to take regular medication for an existing bipolar condition.
She called the police, who became concerned for her well-being and took her to a hospital, which she then realised was a psychiatric facility.
She has told her lawyers that when she said she wanted to return to her hotel, she was restrained and sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
Meanwhile, Essex social services obtained a High Court order in August 2012 for the birth “to be enforced by way of caesarean section”, according to legal documents seen by this newspaper.
The woman, who says she was kept in the dark about the proceedings, says that after five weeks in the ward she was forcibly sedated. When she woke up she was told that the child had been delivered by C-section and taken into care.
In February, the mother, who had gone back to Italy, returned to Britain to request the return of her daughter at a hearing at Chelmsford Crown Court.
Her lawyers say that she had since resumed taking her medication, and that the judge formed a favourable opinion of her. But he ruled that the child should be placed for adoption because of the risk that she might suffer a relapse.
The cause has also been raised before a judge in the High Court in Rome, which has questioned why British care proceedings had been applied to the child of an Italian citizen “habitually resident” in Italy. The Italian judge accepted, though, that the British courts had jurisdiction over the woman, who was deemed to have had no “capacity” to instruct lawyers.
Lawyers for the woman are demanding to know why Essex social services appear not have contacted next of kin in Italy to consult them on the case.
They are also upset that social workers insisted on placing the child in care in Britain, when there had been an offer from a family friend in America to look after her.
Last night an expert on social care proceedings, who asked not to be named because she was not fully acquainted with the details of the case, described it as “highly unusual”.
She said the council would first have to find “that she was basically unfit to make any decision herself” and then shown there was an acute risk to the mother if a natural birth was attempted.
An Essex county council spokesman said the local authority would not comment on ongoing cases involving vulnerable people and children.
Source: Telegraph (UK)
Careful visiting the UK whilst pregnant. They just might take your baby for adoption.
This story in The Telegraph is a step beyond the normal abuses in the family courts (and court of protection). This was a pregnant mother visiting the UK for a training course lasting only two weeks. It ends up with her baby being taken through a forcible cesarian and then placed for adoption for the usual spurious reasons that are used.
Oddly enough last night I had another case of someone who was a foreign mother having her children taken for the system whilst she is deported. This is much like the case from which I highlighted a JR decision earlier this year. Mum was deported and the child kept.
The Italian case is one about which more will be heard. Also the one raised with me last night. The USA case is one which has had some attention.
In essence families count for nothing in the modern family court. The "best interests of the child" are "paramount" which means that what the social workers say goes. If a social worker does not say what the management want then the social worker can be fired as had happened. There is no independence in the system and family ties carry no substantial weight.
I did speak to Michael Gove about this on Wednesday. I do not think that he has this as an objective. It is clearly an unintentional consequence of the government policy of the last 12 years or so. It is, however, a real consequence and has to be brought to an end.
Source: John Hemming blog
Addendum: John Hemming has more to say about deporting mothers while retaining their children in foster care. Britain is not alone here. Fixcas has encountered this practice in the US, Canada and Sweden.
Italian Mother Case: Bipolar UK issue statement in support of mother
The following is a statement by Bipolar UK:
Bipolar UK response to media reporting on forced caesarean and continued separation of mother and child
The forced caesarean and continued separation of mother and child is, we believe, unprecedented.
It is sometimes the case that if someone is very ill they are unable to consent to a medical procedure which those caring for them consider is urgently needed. But officials should make every effort to consult with the family before decisions are taken, a procedure made more difficult in this case because the woman was only on a short stay from Italy. Moreover, if there were continuing concerns about the care of the child, one would have thought Italian social services would have been involved in determining what was best for the child.
Women with bipolar may become unwell during pregnancy and are at high risk of becoming ill following childbirth. The majority of women recover fully, they manage the impact of the illness through strategies involving medication, health care, therapy and self management and they are good mothers.
Notes for Editors
Bipolar – The Facts
Bipolar UK has a dedicated leaflet “Bipolar, pregnancy and childbirth” available to download at http://www.bipolaruk.org.uk/assets/uploads/documents/information_leaflets/bipolar_uk_bipolar_disorder_pregnancy_childbirth.pdf
Between 600,000 and 1.2 million individuals in the UK (1% to 2% of the population) have bipolar. The impact and devastation of bipolar are not about the sufferer alone. Including parents and partners for example, bipolar affects over three million people in the UK today.
Compared with other mental health illnesses that have a similar or lower impact, treatment of bipolar is still hampered by misunderstanding and severe stigma.
It takes an average of 10.5 years to receive a correct diagnosis for bipolar in the UK. The 2012 survey by Royal College of Psychiatrists, Bipolar UK and Bipolar Scotland for the first Bipolar Awareness Day in 2012 suggested this could be as long as 13 years.
Please refer your readers to www.bipolaruk.org.uk or they can contact us on email@example.com and 020 7931 6483.
Bipolar UK can provide case studies, interviews and comments from the charity and individuals affected by bipolar.
Source: John Hemming blog
Italian Mother: Statement by John Hemming
Unsurprisingly there is a lot of media interest in this case. We do, however, need to remember that at the centre of this case is a mother and a baby (and the wider family including two siblings of the baby).
I will be driven as to what I say to the media about the case by the wishes of the mother concerned. I have been discussing that with her today. I have already had a short conversation with her on the telephone and we have agreed to speak further later today. However, I do not expect to be able to make any statement beyond this statement until after 5pm today or even later. I am on the train at the moment which makes it really difficult to have long phone calls.
In the mean time my team have been contacting the Italian Embassy to find out what their position is on this issue. In previous cases the Polish, Czech and Slovak embassies have all been very supportive of their citizens facing unjust proceedings in the family division in England and Wales. However, I do not know what the view of the Italian Embassy or the Italian authorities more generally will be.
When it comes to international public family law each country has a central authority. In the UK the central authority is the Official Solicitor. Italy also has a central authority. In the case of the Slovak grandmother last year the Slovak Central authority applied to intervene in the appeal on behalf of the Slovak Republic. It is, of course, open to the Italian Central Authority to do the same.
The case does highlight the rather selective approach that the Court of Protection has been taking to issuing public judgments. There are many judgments that can be found on the bailii website, but this case does not appear. There has to be an improvement so that proper accountability can occur of judicial processes.
In the mean time I have been referring to the case of the Cootes family. This family who had to leave the UK and go to Spain to keep their daughter are now back in the UK. I know they are willing to be interviewed about what happened with them. My office will give out the grandfather's phone number to any journalists who ask for it. One similarity between this case and that of the Italian mother is the local authority's resistance to the proposal that a baby should be cared within the wider family rather than placed for adoption.
In terms of the question as to how I will raise this in parliament. There are lots and lots and lots of ways of raising something in parliament. I will not decide precisely how to do this until after speak to the mother concerned.
Source: John Hemming blog
Italian Mother: Statement by John Hemming
Response to statement from Judiciary:
"I welcome the transfer of the case from Chelmsford County Court to the High Court in front of the president of the family division. 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."
Comment about failure of Essex to follow proper proceedings:
"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."
Comment following Essex County Council's press release:
"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."
Source: John Hemming blog
Italian Mother: Statement by John Hemming (includes comments from mother and italian judgment)
Report of Conversation with mother:
John Hemming said "I have spoken to the mother concerned who has been very badly treated by the authorities in England. She has said to me that she would like to thank all the British people who have sent messages of support."
"Now that we know that the case is still live and to be heard by Munby P it is clear that the case is sub judice. That limits the range of parliamentary proceedings that can be used. I have, therefore, tabled a Motion in parliament relating to the failures of Essex County Council in terms of Communication with Foreign Institutions. This should appear tomorrow.
Essex County Council's failure to follow international law
Under the Vienna convention article 36 and also under Brussels II Bis revised (Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003) articles 15, 55 and 56 the Italian authorities should have been contacted about both the mother’s imprisonment and the care of the baby. However, they were not.
In 2011 Essex (in response to an FOI request) said they had no contact with High Commissions and Embassies. In 2010-11 they had 21 children who were foreign nationals who had become "looked after". This was as part of 138 who had become "looked after" in the previous 5 years. It is clear, therefore, that they were not following international law then and have not followed international law in this case."
The government are also at fault because they have refused to even try to keep track of which children in the care system are foreign nationals. This could be done easily in the SSDA903 return.
Comments on judgment:
I welcome the publication of the judgment on bailii. It is available here http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/Misc/2013/20.html.
We still need answers.
We need answers from the Mental Health trust who need to explain why the mother was kept in England for 6 weeks prior to being given the C Section.
We need the publication of the judgment about the caesarean section from the court of protection.
We need an explanation of why no attempt was made to allow the father to participate in the court case. He may not be allowed to enter the UK for immigration reasons, but should have been allowed proper participation on the phone or via video link at least.
We also need an explanation from the local authority as to why when the grandmother is deemed capable of looking after two children she could not look after the third.
On the Italian proceedings
"More details are coming out about the proceedings in the Italian courts. It is clear that Essex has misrepresented the court hearings in Italy. The court of first instance ruled itself not competent to rule in the matter and referred it to the tribunal in Rome who in October 2013 declared that it “cannot recognise the ruling of the English court because it is contrary to Italian and international norms of public order”.
Italian: "non poter riconoscere il provvedimento della Corte inglese perchè contrario alle norme italiane e internazionali di ordine pubblico".
Source: John Hemming blog
Italian Mother: Letter from Italian Human Rights Court Group to John Hemming MP
The UFTDU are similar to Liberty.
Source: John Hemming blog
Deported women forced to leave babies in UK is 'increasing problem'
MP makes claim after a pregnant woman, from Italy, was sectioned under the mental health act in UK and had her baby removed by caesarean section
Pregnant women who have been deported but are forced to leave their babies in Britain is becoming an ‘increasing problem’, an influential MP has said, after it emerged that an Italian national was forced into a caesarean section by social workers.
The Italian woman, who was made to leave her baby in Britain, had travelled to the country for a two-week Ryanair training course at Stansted when she was sectioned under the mental health act and told she must stay in hospital.
Essex social services then obtained a High Court order against the woman, allowing her to be forcibly sedated and the child to be taken from her womb.
John Hemming, MP for Birmingham Yardley and chairman of the Public Family Law Reform Coordinating Campaign, which wants reform and greater openness in court proceedings involving family matters, said there were many other instances of children taken from mothers in Britain, who are then deported.
He referred to the case of a mother whose child, now five-years-old, was born in Sweden, but was taken into the care of a local authority in Britain after her mother was involved in an incident at Heathrow airport.
The child was placed in a foster home in September 2012 and continued to live there until an appeal court ruled British authorities did not have jurisdiction over the child.
Mr Hemming said: “It’s a very big problem that has been swept under the carpet. Partly because it is so awful, people want to turn a blind eye to it.”
"In essence families count for nothing in the modern family court.
“The 'best interests of the child' are 'paramount' which means that what the social workers say goes. If a social worker does not say what the management want then the social worker can be fired as had happened. There is no independence in the system and family ties carry no substantial weight.
“The Italian case is one about which more will be heard.”
Mr Hemming said local authorties were often under pressure to make quick decisions about foster placements and adoptions.
Earlier this year, Education Secretary Michael Gove, launched a drive to increase the number of children adopted. It came after official figures showed almost half of all councils were failing to meet basic targets for placing children with adoptive parents.
He added: "The problem's been going on for a long time but it’s become an increasing problem because of some of the changes brought in by the current government.”
When the police arrived at the Italian mother's hotel room last summer, they told her that they were taking her to hospital to “make sure that the baby was OK”.
The officers had spoken to the woman’s mother on the phone, who explained that she was upset she couldn’t find the passports for her two daughters, who were staying with her in Italy.
The grandmother said she was probably stressed because she suffered from a “bipolar” condition and had not been taking her medication.
However, instead of taking the woman to hospital, officers delivered her to a psychiatric unit, where she was restrained and sectioned.
The baby girl, now 15 months old, is still being looking after by social services, who are refusing to give her back to her mother. The woman has launched a legal battle to return her daughter.
In what has turned into an international legal row, lawyers for the woman have publicly questioned why her family in Italy were not consulted beforehand and why social services insisted on keeping the child in Britain despite an offer from a family friend in America to care for her.
Under British law, a child should be adopted by members of their wider family wherever possible but social services ruled an aunt of the baby’s stepsister, an American resident, could not look after her because there was no “blood tie”.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights organisation Liberty, described the case as “the stuff of nightmares”.
She said: "Please God there's more to this, but at first blush this is dystopian science-fiction unworthy of a democracy like ours. Forced surgery and separation of mother and infant is the stuff of nightmares that those responsible will struggle to defend in courts of law and decency.
A spokesman for Essex county council said the local authority could not comment on ongoing cases.
Source: Telegraph (UK)
Addendum: The international notariety of this case caused judge Mostyn to release two court orders and the transcript of a hearing. IN THE MATTER OF: Re: AA (pdf).
Demonstrating that social workers are out of touch with reality, Annie Hudson, chief executive of the College of Social Work, defends every act of the social services system in Alessandra's case.
How 'forced' caesarean case became a story about social work
The hostile media outburst was characterised by speculation and half-truths, with little focus on the complexities of the case
"Torment of the woman who had baby taken from womb" said one typical headline, as Essex social workers were pilloried by the media for apparently forcing an Italian mother to have a caesarean section. This should not come as a surprise – we have become accustomed to being "damned if we do, damned if we don't".
Yet the truth, as it gradually emerged last week, was very different. Media hostility has made social work wary of explaining what it does and why, so Essex council and the courts should be applauded for stepping in quickly to give a public and factual account of their decisions.
The Essex story, with its mental health, child protection, adoption and indeed international dimensions, gave vent to an extraordinary media outburst about "unaccountable and out of control" professionals riding roughshod over a mother's human rights. Much of this was characterised by speculation, half truths, and a breathtaking lack of sensitivity to the needs of a very small child who was rendered invisible.
Three professional practice issues stand out from this case: privacy, decision-making timescales and parental mental illness. Social workers were portrayed as undermining human rights via recourse to "secret" courts, when in fact the caesarean application to the court of protection was an obstetrician-led decision made on health grounds by Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS trust. All the professionals involved, including social workers, quite rightly sought to protect the privacy of both parent and child in making what were difficult and no doubt emotionally wrenching decisions.
The caesarean section made this case unusual, if not unique, but in other respects the decisions taken were nothing out of the ordinary. It is clear that social workers and other professionals made a measured and evidence-based appraisal of the child's interests, the mother's health, and whether a kinship placement in another country was feasible.
Importantly too, despite press portrayals of precipitous professionals, decisions about the child's future were within normal timeframes and entirely consistent with good practice. The baby was born in late August 2012 but it was in early February 2013 that the county court granted a care order and gave the local authority leave to place the child for adoption, thereby meeting the 26-week standard for care proceedings.
Social workers were accused by the media of not talking to the mother's Italian family when seeking a placement for the child. In fact, they did. The international dimension to social work decision-making is an increasingly important feature of the work, which may involve working effectively with counterparts in other countries and travelling abroad to assess kinship carers. Importantly, many such carers go on to give excellent permanent care for English-born children.
Zoe Williams, in a generally thoughtful piece in the Guardian, took less issue with the caesarean section decision and more with the adoption decision which she suggested "should truly worry us". She is of course right to point out that having mental health problems should never be equated with parental incapacity.
But we also have to recognise that a small number of parents with mental health problems do struggle to look after their children sufficiently well. It is in these situations that social workers, and other professionals, have to carefully weigh up the risks and take the hard decisions. The published court judgments suggest that great care was taken in making these decisions and remind us of the imperative that mental health and children's services work in partnership. This can be tough and demanding, especially when there is conflict; when this sadly happens then it is the interests of children that must be uppermost.
So a story which started out about social work "precipitousness" and "disregard for human rights" became, after a febrile media week, a story about the intellectually and emotionally demanding nature of social work. To that extent, we must hope that the story ultimately contributed to a more nuanced public understanding of the challenges facing social workers every day.
Annie Hudson is chief executive of the College of Social Work
Source: Guardian (UK)
Addendum: A week later Booker follows up.
Judge must unravel saga of baby snatched from womb
In the shocking case of an Italian mother whose child was removed by caesarean, the head of Britain's family courts will be looking closely at social workers' actions
When last week I broke the story of the Italian mother whose baby was forcibly removed from her womb and taken into care by Essex social workers, I had no idea what a storm this would unleash. Not only did the story make front-page news for four days running here in Britain, along with endless discussion on the radio and legal blogs, but it was reported in at least 41 countries across the world.
Two responses were particularly significant. The first was that Lord Justice Munby, who, since stepping up to become the head of our family courts, has robustly campaigned for our much-criticised child protection system to be opened up to “the glare of publicity”, now wishes to take over the case himself and to ask the social workers to explain their actions. The second was the publication not only of the judgment by Mr Justice Mostyn (pictured), who gave the original secret order for the baby to be removed in the Court of Protection, but also, very revealingly, a full transcript of the proceedings. It is this, above all, that has helped enormously to clarify understanding of this murky story, and makes it even more disturbing than it previously appeared.
On August 23 2012, when Alessandra Pacchieri had already been detained for five weeks in the psychiatric wing of an Essex hospital under the Mental Health Act, pleading to be allowed to return home to her family in Italy, Mostyn heard an application from the MidEssex Health Trust that the mother should be operated on next day to remove her baby, if necessary with use of force. Because the mother was deemed not to have the “mental capacity” to instruct her own lawyer, she was represented on behalf of the Official Solicitor by David Lock QC, who never met her.
The main evidence against the mother was two reports from a psychiatrist, Dr Rupesh Adimulam, who had diagnosed her as “psychotic” and “schizophrenic”, although her “bipolar” condition resulted from a chemical imbalance that had previously been corrected by medication. She had stopped taking that because she was advised that it was dangerous to unborn babies. An obstetrician’s report also said that a caesarean section was advisable because, with a natural birth as the mother wanted, there was a “1 per cent risk of uterine rupture”.
But Lock then raised a “multi-agency report” recommending that the mother should be given “a fair chance” of being treated for her condition in a mother-and-baby unit, allowing her child to stay with her. This point was not even considered by the court. Mostyn simply went on to suggest that, as soon as the baby was born, Essex social services should apply for an interim order to take the child into care, insisting that the mother “should not know about this order before she is taken and goes into hospital”. An order meeting Mostyn’s requirements, including use of force and withholding from the mother that Essex was to apply for a care order, was drafted by the health trust barrister and signed by Mostyn.
As we know from the mother, all went according to plan. Next day she was forcibly sedated, the operation took place and she woke up to find her baby gone, with her room “full of hospital staff and social workers”. She was briefly allowed to see and breastfeed her new daughter, but was forbidden to do this again (despite Munby’s ruling in an earlier case that to deny a mother the right to breastfeed her newborn baby is in breach of “the imperative demands of the European Convention on Human Rights”).
Ms Pacchieri says that her psychiatrist wanted her to be sent with her child to the mother-and-baby unit. But now the social workers had their care order, this gave them full control over what happened next. After three days the baby vanished from the hospital to be put into foster care. Weeks later, Alessandra was escorted by two hospital managers back to Italy, where her father owns a restaurant near Siena. After three weeks being treated in an Italian hospital, she was so fully restored to health that, when in February she returned to Britain to plead for her child not to be adopted, Judge Newton, who had seen her in October, said that she presented herself so impressively that she seemed almost a different person. But, because he could not rule out her failing to take her medication in the future, her child must be placed for adoption.
Such is the extraordinarily tangled saga which Lord Justice Munby has now set himself to unravel. We must hope that he studies Mostyn’s judgment and the events which followed very carefully indeed.
Source: Telegraph (UK)
Addendum: Still more. The courts cannot fairly criticize the press for inaccuracies when it is the courts themselves that whithhold the facts.
Lord Justice Munby probes 'court secrecy’
The case of Alessandra Pacchieri, the Italian woman whose baby was forcibly delivered, has prompted a significant judgment from Sir James Munby, head of the family courts
I was planning to report the heartwarming story of how a devoutly Christian husband and wife were last week miraculously reunited in time for Christmas with their four young children – who, for quite bizarre reasons, had been taken unhappily into foster care by social workers. An unusually sensible judge eventually excoriated the social workers for all that had been done to this family and ordered them to hand back the bewildered children to their distraught parents. But the mother then asked me to hold back on telling their story until the new year.
In fact, delaying that story could not be more opportune, because I need to report on a very important judgment given last Tuesday by Lord Justice Munby, now head of our family courts. This was in the much-publicised case first revealed here of the pregnant Italian mother, Alessandra Pacchieri, who, on a brief visit to Britain, had her baby forcibly delivered by a caesarean section on the secret orders of Mr Justice Mostyn, before the child was sent by Essex social workers for adoption.
Munby’s judgment, in response to an application by Essex for an injunction on further reporting of the case that has been covered across the world, takes further than ever before his crusade to meet the growing criticism of our dysfunctional “child protection” system by exposing it to “the glare of publicity”.
His most trenchant passage answers all those legal bloggers who rushed to criticise me and others for our coverage of this disturbing story by asking “how can the family justice system blame the media for inaccuracy in the reporting of family cases if for whatever reason none of the relevant information has been put before the public?”
“This case,” Munby went on, “must surely stand as a final, stark and irrefutable demonstration of the pressing need for radical changes in the way in which both the family courts and the Court of Protection approach what for shorthand I will refer to as transparency. We simply cannot go on as hitherto.”
Already Munby had dramatically demonstrated his point by urging Mr Justice Mostyn to authorise publication of the Court of Protection proceedings in which he ignored the recommendation of a “multi-agency report” that the Italian mother and her baby should stay together. These showed that Mostyn not only ruled in secret that the mother should be forcibly delivered of her baby, but that she also should not be told that Essex would almost immediately remove her child into care.
Munby criticised Essex for five failures to follow proper legal procedures. But he has obviously not yet been made aware that when last October Essex moved for the child to be adopted, they only notified Ms Pacchieri of what was to happen the previous day, in an encrypted email she was unable to read because they did not give her the correct code. They also misinformed Munby and everyone else with a statement claiming that, when the mother took proceedings in the Italian high court, this ruled that the child “should remain in England”. A translation of the court judgment shows that it did nothing of the kind. It found that the treatment of the mother by the British authorities “poses an irreconcilable conflict with the fundamental rights of the child”. The Rome court found that the case should have been handled differently in every respect, and that the UK “court decision cannot be recognised”.
In fact, the Italian government has now briefed London lawyers that it wishes to be represented in any further hearings of the case. Munby noted that no application for a further hearing has yet been made by Ms Pacchieri’s English solicitor, Brendan Fleming, but this is because no legal funding is likely to be made available to them. Fleming regards the case as so important that he is willing to work on it for no fee, but to defray the remaining costs he is setting up a “fighting fund”, which he hopes will allow the case to proceed as soon as possible.
We have not heard the last of this story, and Sir James Munby deserves commendation for his determination to ensure that justice should be done – and that it must be clearly seen to be done.
Source: Telegraph (UK)
Addendum: In January the same court orders cesarean surgery for another woman against her will.
Judge orders mentally ill woman to have forced caesarean
A mentally ill woman has had a baby after a judge ordered her to undergo a caesarean section in order to “keep her alive”
A High Court judge has given doctors permission to perform an urgent caesarean section on a mentally-ill woman with diabetes.
The woman was delivered of a baby boy within hours of Mr Justice Hayden giving specialists at the Royal Free London NHS Trust approval for the procedure, following a five-hour hearing at the Court of Protection.
He conceded that the decision was “draconian” but insisted it was necessary because the 32-year-old mother’s life may be in danger.
The ruling, late on Friday, came after doctors applied for permission to carry out the delivery in order that the patient’s “unstable mental state” could be treated.
Lawyers representing the trust said that the baby had been delivered without problem in the early hours of Saturday, and that the woman had hugged a surgeon after recovering consciousness. They said no restraint had been necessary.
The case has echoes of the treatment of Allesandra Pacchieri, an Italian woman forced to have her baby delivered by c-section and then removed from her by Essex social services, and comes at a time when the operations of the Court of Protection, which deals with such issues, is under renewed scrutiny.
The woman, who had been 32 weeks pregnant, was deemed unable to make the decision over how to give birth.
A specialist from the trust told the Court of Protection in London, which specialises in issues relating to the sick and vulnerable, that their priority was “keeping this woman alive”.
Mr Justice Hayden heard how she was thought to have paranoid schizophrenia, had stopped eating and tried to kill herself.
One doctor told the court that her mental and physical problems should improve and be easier to treat once the baby had been born.
The judge ruled that neither the woman nor the hospital where she was treated should be named but the health authority should be in order to “serve to reassure public confidence”.
He added: “The decision to compel a caesarean section on an incapacitous woman who is mentally and physically ill is an extremely draconian one. Doctors do not embark upon this lightly. It occurs extremely rarely. It is one that the lawyers also take very seriously indeed.
“I am perfectly satisfied that at the moment [this woman] is not able to make any reasoned evaluation of the advantages and disadvantages of a caesarean section.”
Mr Justice Hayden concluded that the woman lacked the mental capacity to regulate her diabetic medicine and monitor her own intake of food and water.
However, in granting permission for the operation the judge stipulated that the patient should not be restrained or have force used against her.
A specialist advised the court that the baby would not be at risk if delivered via caesarean section at 32 weeks.
The Telegraph revealed in December how Miss Pacchieri, an Italian who suffers from a bipolar condition, was taken into hospital while visiting England and sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
In a hearing which took place behind closed doors at the secretive Court of Protection, a judge granted permission for doctors to forcibly deliver her child, a girl, who was then put into foster care almost immediately.
Miss Pacchieri, 35, is fighting to get her daughter back and a decision on her case will now be taken by Sir James Munby, Britain’s most senior family judge.
The child, now 15 months old, can only be referred to as Child P because her anonymity is protected by court orders. She is still in the process of being adopted, against her mother’s wishes.
Miss Pacchieri came to Britain in June 2012 for a training course at Stansted airport to become an air hostess, when she suffered what her legal team insist was a “panic attack” which led to her being sectioned.
She said she had rung police for help who, after speaking to her mother in Italy about her bipolar condition, took her from her hotel to hospital, where she was told she would be sectioned.
She claims she refused to take medication for her condition because she feared it would harm her unborn child.
Ten weeks later, in August 2012, the local health authority obtained an order enabling doctors to deliver the child by caesarean section while Essex County Council began care proceedings which led to the girl being eventually put up for adoption.
Source: Telegraph (UK)