Story (By Nick Tarver)
‘If every person who was charged with a crime not got convicted in court, you would have some serious concerns over the justice system. This is the same.’
The parents of a forcibly adopted baby whose court battle to get her back failed, condemn the 100 per cent success record of Enfield’s social workers.
QUESTIONS have been raised after 100 per cent of applications by Enfield’s social workers to forcibly remove children from their families were approved by the courts in the past four years. Figures obtained by the Advertiser under the Freedom of Information Act show that in the past four years, every single one of the 43 placement orders Enfield Council has applied for has been granted by the courts.
A placement order authorises a local authority to place a child for adoption where there is no parental consent, or where consent should be dispensed with.
The controversial power of forced adoption is intended to safeguard children from parental abuse or neglect, but serious concerns have been raised over it’s widespread use and lack of transparency.
The 100 per cent success rate in Enfield cases has led to fears the courts are just rubber-stamping forced adoptions rather than going against the recommendations made by social workers.
In June 2009 a little girl from Enfield – who along with her parents cannot be named for legal reasons – was forcibly adopted after her father was accused of hurting his child from a previous marriage, although he was never charged, let alone convicted.
He has strenuously denied the accusation and is still allowed full and unsupervised access to the child he was accused of hurting. But his daughter, who is now five years old and living permanently with a new family, was taken by social workers when she was just a few days old on the grounds that she could have suffered “potential future harm”.
The evidence against the father was so flimsy that the judge who eventually ordered the adoption, Mr Justice Mark Hedley, even said: “The father has never been prosecuted for any offence, nor have I seen evidence on which a jury could be sure of guilt of any offence.”
Despite this, the judge was still loath to go against advice from social workers and previous judicial decisions and the little girl was forcibly adopted, to the despair of her parents. Speaking to the Advertiser, the father said: “I don’t think the public have a clue how much of this goes on behind the scenes. “Knowing that 100 per cent of these applications are getting the go – ahead is staggering. You don’t have to be Einstein to work out that this should be impossible.
“In criminal cases, if every single person who was charged with a crime got convicted in court you would have serious concerns over the justice system. This is exactly the same situations.”
The father said he believes the decisions in these important cases should be carried out by a jury and not rest solely on the shoulders of a judge, who often does not wish to overturn decisions made by his or her peers.
“My personal feeling is that the judges are just under too much pressure to go along with the recommendation,” he said. “There should be a jury system in these cases, where 12 normal people weigh up the evidence.
“One person shouldn’t have that complete power over a child’s wellbeing. “If a child is suspected of being abused then he or she should be taken out of the home immediately, but this should be temporary until the accusations is proved.
The parents of the adopted little girl are still together but the mother was told that as long as she stays married to the father she cannot keep any future children they may have together.
“There’s something missing from our lives now,” the father said. “It’s hard because you have to get on with live. I have two other children who I still look after, so that helps take some of the pain away, but it’s much harder for my wife as she doesn’t have the privilege of ever seeing her own child.”
A council spokeswoman said that in four of 43 cases where a placement order was granted, the parents eventually consented to give up their rights to the child. “Decisions about child adoptions are not taken lightly – and only cases where there are serious concerns go to court,” she said.
“The outcome of cases is based on evidence presented before a judge. Not all placement orders are forced adoptions, since in some cases parents wish to give up their parental rights. These cases are also included in the figure given.
“Our concern is to ensure the safety of children in this borough and we will not flinch from taking the necessary action to see that this happens.”
Not Guilty, My birthday is 26th December 2004, Stolen by Enfield Social Services and Adopted
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