Judge slams Sunderland social services over efforts to remove vulnerable mother’s baby at birth

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A SOCIAL services department which applied for a care order without the knowledge of a pregnant mother has been criticised by a judge.

The birth plan would have enabled Sunderland City Council to remove the baby from the vulnerable mother at birth, possibly permanently.

The council withdrew the application before the High Court in London, but the judge said the idea of a birth plan was ‘misconceived’ and ‘overly paternalistic’.

Mr Justice Hayden said the motives of social workers to protect the mother and child were ‘laudable.

The judge added: “In a democratic society, individuals are entitled to take their own decisions, good or bad.

“They are at liberty to make their own mistakes.

“It remains a fact a foetus in UK law has no rights of its own, at least until it is born and has a separate existence from its mother.

“The kind of anticipatory declaration sought by the local authority would only be granted in wholly exceptional 
circumstances when it was imperatively required in the interests of the newborn’s safety in the period immediately following birth.”

The court heard the woman has had children who have all been removed from her care and placed for adoption.

She was described as ‘vulnerable’, but as having the capacity to take decisions and evaluate the issues involved.

Mr Justice Hayden said: “It is quite possible to keep the mother and baby together in a manner which respects their mutual need for the other in the period immediately following birth.

“That has the effect of maintaining the respective rights of both mother and baby until the Family Proceedings Court can hear the inevitable applications.”