By Christopher Booker
‘Child protection’ wreaks havoc on a loving family once again
How a mother who fled to Ireland to save her baby was caught on her return.
The best-known of dozens of English mothers who have fled abroad to avoid their babies being seized by social workers is Vicky Haigh, a former racehorse trainer. After her flight to Ireland three months ago, her baby is flourishing and Irish social workers seem entirely happy that she is an excellent mother. Less happy, however, is the outcome of another case I reported last year. This involved a 17-year-old girl, five months pregnant, who fled to Ireland with her parents, after receiving a letter from a social worker she had never met to say her baby would be seized the moment it was born.
After the birth, all seemed to go well, despite relentless efforts by the English social workers to persuade their Irish counterparts to return the baby to England. They blackened the family unmercifully, pointing out that the grandfather once, many years ago, served a brief prison sentence after a pub fight, while the young mother had, in her early teens, twice been given an Asbo. After a series of interviews with the family, the Irish social workers were satisfied that the baby was in good hands and that there were no grounds for further intervention.
But eventually the family’s savings ran out. Buoyed up by a glowing appraisal from the Irish social workers, they decided to return to England.
All went well until the young mother registered her baby with a GP, who reported to social workers that she was back in this country. The social workers were soon on the doorstep, threatening the girl that, unless she moved out immediately, leaving her child with its grandmother, they would take her baby.
The grandmother applied for guardianship of her beloved grandchild, but on the eve of the final hearing, the social workers arrived at 8.30 in the morning, supposedly to check that “the house was carpeted”. One barged into a room upstairs, where the grandfather, semi-naked, was talking to his 21-year-old son. He told the woman in no uncertain terms to leave, and banged the door behind her. The grandmother was on the landing, holding the baby.
That evening the social workers returned, with four policemen, to remove the baby. They claimed that when the door had been slammed, the child “might have been injured”. They applied for an order to put her into foster care. As so often in such cases, the solicitors recommended by the council to represent the family refused to object, saying nothing.
Three times recently, in the weekly “contacts” with the baby which the mother and grandmother are allowed in the social services office, they have been horrified to see their formerly healthy, cheerful child covered in bruises (legs, thighs, knees, shins, forehead and arms) of which they have pictures. The social workers refuse to explain how such injuries could have arisen.
In Ireland, the social workers expressed every confidence that this baby would be well looked after. In a country where children are only seized where there is evidence that they have been done actual harm, they are astonished at the behaviour of their English colleagues. In no other country in Europe are children snatched from loving parents on such flimsy grounds.
Most shocking of all is the way these inhuman actions are then supported by a court system which often seems rigged against the parents (and the children), to the point where they are forbidden to speak at all except through lawyers who appear as complicit in the system as the social workers themselves. When is this horrible national scandal going to get the wider attention it deserves?