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31 JAN 2008

Court orders return of newborn baby

A High Court judge ordered the immediate return of a newborn baby yesterday saying the social workers had taken the child illegally.

The baby was only two-hours-old when he was taken from his 18-year-old mother at 4am yesterday morning by Nottingham social services.

Mr Justice Munby ordered that the baby should be returned to the mother, known as G, claiming that the boy could not be removed without a court order. The judge described the situation as "most unfortunate" and said no baby could be removed simply "as the result of a decision taken by officials in some room". He went on to say that "the professionals involved in this case should know better".

"There is no suggestion in the documents shown to me so far that the risk the mother is posing is a risk of exposing the child to immediate physical attack and physical harm."

Ian Wise, the barrister representing G in the emergency high court hearing at midday yesterday, said the baby was taken without the mother's consent after hospital staff were presented with a "birth plan" prepared by social services. The plan said the mother was to be separated from the child, and no contact allowed without supervision by social workers as the mother suffers from mental health problems.

However, Nottingham social services will today make an application to take the boy into care. The teenage mother's solicitor, Stuart Luke, said she planned to "vigorously contest" an application by the social services for an interim care order.

In a statement, the co-Chair of the Association of Lawyers for Children, Alistair MacDonald, said: "The State can only remove a child from the care of its parents if the court sanctions that removal. It is vital that parents and children are represented by specialist lawyers when the court is considering this incredibly difficult and far reaching decision. Sadly, current Government policy is making it increasingly difficult for parents to find specialist family lawyers locally to represent them when social services seek to remove their children."

"What would have happened in this case if the mother had not been able to find a family lawyer to take the case before a Judge so that the right decision could be made? As we have repeatedly said, a legal aid scheme that reduces the number of specialist family lawyers able to represent children and families is bad for children, bad for society and bad for the country as a whole."

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