Baby to remain in HSE care, High Court rules

Infant taken from mother after gardai surrounded house last week amid concerns for child’s safety

In the High Court today, Mr Justice Sean Ryan said the welfare of a vulnerable baby is the responsibility of the State in the situation where the primary carers have failed.

In the High Court today, Mr Justice Sean Ryan said the welfare of a vulnerable baby is the responsibility of the State in the situation where the primary carers have failed.

Mon, Sep 30, 2013, 13:02

The mother of a newborn baby taken by gardai who surrounded a house and placed the infant in HSE custody has lost a High Court action aimed at having the child returned to her.

The baby will remain in HSE care until Thursday at least, the High Court ruled today.

The baby, who is now just four days old, was being breast fed by its mother when gardai arrived at a friend’s house on Thursday on the instructions of the HSE.

The mother, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, and her child were placed under house arrest before the baby was taken into HSE care. Last week, the court heard the baby’s father was a controlling type of person who bullied his wife and had in the past assaulted his wife’s teenage daughter by another relationship.

Mr Justice Sean Ryan, in a ruling this morning, dismissed arguments by lawyers for the baby, who sued through his mother, that the child was unlawfully and unconstitutionally taken into care by the authorities.

Mr Justice Ryan said it was “difficult to overstate the distressing nature of this case”. However, he was satisfied from the evidence the emergency order placing the child in HSE care was valid and lawful.

He said there was no way of being certain in such cases. In the past, there had been cases of children who came to terrible harm and even death because social services failed to act. The welfare of a vulnerable baby was a serious duty on the State if the primary carer or carers fail, he added.

In his ruling, the judge said he accepted that neither the mother nor her lawyers had had an opportunity to make a case to the District Court before the care order was made.

However, the purpose of an emergency care order was to ensure the health, safety and well-being of the infant, the judge said. In this case, the baby’s interests and those of his mother appeared to be in conflict and this dichotomy was at the heart of the inquiry that had been carried out.

Mr Justice Ryan said he was satisfied the care order obtained by the HSE was valid. It was not the High Court’s role in these proceedings to decide if there were any truth the allegations or concerns expressed by the HSE in relation to the father’s alleged behaviour.

The care order, he added, was temporary in nature, lasting only eight days. Care orders, such as the one being challenged in this case, could only be extended following a full hearing at the District Court, the judge continued. The circumstances of the situation could change when matters are fully aired before the District Court.

The judge further dismissed an offer by the mother that if she was given custody of the baby, she would reside with a family friend away from the father. He said it wasn’t fair or reasonable to place this responsibility on the family friend.

He ruled the baby should remain in the custody of the HSE at least until Thursday, when the initial order expires.

Lawyers for the baby indicated they were considering an appeal to the Supreme Court.