2. The adoption judgement in the “forced caesarean” story has been released, and it shows that a lot of the claims made about the original case were wrong.
The Telegraph had originally reported that “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 woman was from Italy, and was staying in the UK on a short-term basis.
3. In fact, as the judgement makes clear, social services did not start legal proceedings until after the baby – referred to as “P” – was born.
This backs up a statement made by Essex County Council that said the decision to perform a caesarean was made by the local Health Trust – for which they had to apply to the court, because the mother was not in a state to consent to treatment.
4. Updated, Dec 4: The ruling and transcript of proceedings for the earlier Court of Protection judgement on the mother’s caesarean have also now been released:
An explanatory note at the beginning summarises the basics: the caesarean was at term, and for a medical reason (the risk of uterine rupture) rather than prompted by a desire to remove the child from the mother; the mother’s own QC did not oppose the procedure. As the other judgement strongly suggested, Essex County Council and social services played no part in the proceedings, confirming that the Telegraph’s original report was incorrect.
However, it’s also worth noting is that the ruling suggests the local authority were planning to use police powers to take the child into protection once it was born; the judge advises them (although they were not present in court) that this would be heavy handed, and that they should instead go through the courts - which, as the other judgement states, they subsequently did.
We will update this post further as we look at the ruling in more detail.
5. The Telegraph’s Christopher Booker, who wrote the original column from which the story was taken, also seems to have significantly mis-stated the severity of the woman’s illness when he wrote:
…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.
6. The judgement says that at the time she was “profoundly unwell”, and that when not taking medication for her bipolar affective disorder, she suffers “very intrusive paranoid delusions”:
The mother had been sectioned for five weeks when the decision to perform a caesarean was taken.
The Telegraph report also suggested that social services had not consulted with either the child’s extended family or Italian social services. In fact, the judgement makes clear that both a social worker and the baby’s guardian visited Italy, and documents from Italian social services played a major role in the judge’s decision.
The mother’s two other children are currently being cared for by their grandmother, and both the family and the Italian courts had for some time restricted the mother’s contact with them due to her illness, which caused “considerable conflict” with her parents. The judgement says that one child in particular had been “traumatised” and “terrorised” by what they had witnessed.
However, relations between the mother and her parents have subsequently improved – along with her health – and the mother now has “the support of her family”.
8. This is what makes the case both tragic and controversial. The mother’s health has got much better since the birth of her child – indeed, she feels the baby “saved her” by making her accept her need to deal with her illness:
The judge was faced with a dilemma based on the uncertainty of whether the mother’s condition would remain stable, which conflicted with the need to see the child placed in a stable environment early in its life.
The judge cites well-established evidence that “a child’s best chances are by being in a secure placement by the time he or she is nine months old, whether that be within the birth family or otherwise.” The mother’s suggestion of the child being in foster care for a year was “well outside that timeframe”.
9. The judge makes it clear at the start of the ruling that it is the child’s best interests which should come foremost:
10. The ruling says that “the best place for any child is to grow up within his own family if it all possible”. But given the uncertainty of the mother’s health, the judge decides this is not in the child’s best interests:
This is a decision which is still controversial - as many decisions about the care of a child are - and there is a large amount that remains unknown and uncertain about the case. But it does seem that a signficant amount of the initial reporting on the case was factually inaccurate.