'Forced Birth' Mother Could Not Care For Child, Essex Social Services Say

The Italian mother at the centre of an care scandal involving the removal of her newborn baby by Essex social services was far too unwell to care for her child, Essex County Council has said.

A statement from the council, shedding light on the case which generated a media storm, explains that the woman in question has two elder children already in the care system in Italy.

The Telegraph's Christopher Booker had originally described the woman as having had "something of a panic attack" on a two-week training course at Stansted airport.

However, in the newly released judgment from His Honour Judge Newton, he says the woman "has had a number of very intrusive paranoid delusions" and "was profoundly unwell".

The judgment mentions her two other children, C and D, saying: "C has been particularly upset by the experiences which she has had to witness, that she has been both traumatised and indeed has been terrorised, not by the mother's behaviour, but by what it is that she has witnessed and in particular her mother being profoundly unwell."

The mother had had restricted access to her children, on the wishes of the grandparents, the judge said.

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, according to The Sunday Telegraph.

It is understood that details were not previously released before a court approved further personal details being made public, as all family court cases are automatically protected.

Essex County Council said the Health Trust had been looking after the mother since 13 June 2012 under section 3 of the Mental Health Act, and because of their concerns the Health Trust contacted Essex County Council's Social Services.

After five weeks in their care, "a clinical decision was made to deliver her unborn baby by caesarean section because of concerns about risks to mother and child," the council said, adding that the mother had seen her child on the day of birth.

Essex's Social Services obtained an Interim Care Order from the County Court "because the mother was too unwell to care for her child". The mother has two other children which she is unable to care for due to orders made by the Italian authorities.

Social workers tried extensively to place the child with family members in Italy, working with extended family both before and after birth, Essex Council said.

A spokesman added: "The long term safety and wellbeing of children is always Essex County Council's priority. Adoption is never considered until we have exhausted all other options and is never pursued lightly."

The Daily Mail reported that the mother's ex-partner and parents, who allegedly look after her other children, said they would care for the baby girl.

The case made headlines across the UK, Europe and the US. Sir James Munby, head of the UK's family courts, ordered that all further proceedings in the case be heard by him.

Bipolar UK has condemned the decision, saying it was "unprecedented".

But social workers have condemned the way that the case has demonised the professional judgment of colleagues. The Chief Executive of the British Association of Social Workers Bridget Robb blamed "elements of the media with an axe to grind" and a "prejudicial approach".

"We have a duty to point out that some of the coverage of this case has conferred on social workers a power beyond all recognition," she said.

"The Daily Telegraph's assertion that 'A pregnant woman has had her baby forcibly removed by caesarean section by social workers' not only reduces the debate to the absurd but makes a sweeping dismissal of the professional code to which doctors, who actually carry out such procedures, adhere.

"The debate has also been ill-served by the use of the term 'secrecy' in some of the deliberations involved in this woman's case when 'confidentiality' is the actual starting point for social workers and other professionals engaged in sensitive matters about people's well-being.

"Social work, as with other professions, must always be prepared to consider how it might do things differently but so too elements of the media with an axe to grind might question whether their prejudicial approach does anything to support improved public understanding or better public services."

Solicitors for the woman in question, Brendan Fleming, said it would no longer discuss details of the case. "We remain committed to fighting for our clients and shall fight tooth and nail to help mother be re-united with her baby," it said in a statement.