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(Family Division, Coleridge J, 14 December 2012)
The mother and father had tried for 8 years to conceive a child when they were referred by a friend to The Miracle of God Fertility Clinic in Port Harcourt, Nigeria (which was also investigated in the case of A Local Authority v S and Others,  EWHC 3764 (Fam),  FLR forthcoming). The parents paid £12,000 for fertility services and following treatment the mother was informed that she was pregnant. Upon their return to the UK the mother's GP carried out a pregnancy test which was negative. The mother traveled to Nigeria where she was informed that the baby was developing normally and that the negative result was due to the fertility treatment.
When the baby reached full term the parents traveled to Nigeria where a delivery process took place and the mother was presented with a baby, still attached to the umbilical cord but not the placenta. The mother described the painful steps she went through which created the impression she was taking part in a genuine labour.
The mother took the baby to her GP in the UK upon their return who alerted the local authority and police due to the fact that he knew she had never been pregnant. When DNA testing established that the baby did not belong to the parents he was removed from their care and placed with foster carers under an interim care order.
A fact-finding hearing was convened to determine the extent to which the parents knew of the bogus process. The police and local authority investigations supported the parents' case that they knew nothing of the scam and were completely innocent of any wrongdoing.
The judge found the parents to be impressive witnesses whose accounts in all material respects remained consistent. In addition, the facts surrounding the parents' involvement such as repeated trips to doctors in the UK and Nigeria indicated they knew nothing of the scam, otherwise what possible purpose was there for the lie to be repeatedly confirmed? Their reaction to the news that they were not in fact the biological parents of the child was one of complete genuine disbelief and upset. They had been completely duped and were entirely innocent.
It was not good enough in the complex circumstances of the case that the Legal Services Commission was not able to provide a speedy decision on public funding and that the court had to rely on the Bar pro bono service.
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