Day-old baby taken from mother after emergency HSE application

Gardaí surround house and take child into care, court told

Fri, Sep 27, 2013, 13:16

A day-old breast-fed baby was taken from its mother yesterday after gardai surrounded a house on the instructions of HSE care workers, the High Court was told today.

Mr Justice Sean Ryan will sit in the High Court first thing tomorrow morning to hear legal argument as to the lawfulness of the baby’s detention.

Barrister Michael O’Higgins SC, counsel for the baby and its mother, told the court that the child was born on Wednesday morning and by tea-time yesterday it was the subject of an emergency care application by the HSE in the District Court.

The identity of the baby or its parents, or publication of any detail that might lead to identifying any of them, was banned by the court which heard there were “certain existing allegations” against the father which had been of concern to the HSE.

Mr O’Higgins, who appeared with Mairead Carey, said the baby was now in the custody of the HSE and he was asking the court to direct an inquiry into the lawfulness of that custody.

He said the issue to be decided by the High Court was whether there was a deficiency in the procedure adopted in yesterday’s District Court hearing.

He said the mother already had one teenage child in care of the HSE and the father had two teenage children also in the care of the HSE.

Mr O’Higgins said that after the mother had become pregnant the pregnancy had been monitored by the HSE. A conference had been held by the HSE on September 10 at which it had been considered the baby might be at risk following birth. The HSE had taken legal advice on the question of protection issues.

On Wednesday September 24th, the mother had given birth to a boy and by 5.15pm the family solicitor had received an indication that an emergency care application would be made before a District Court judge yesterday.

The solicitor had immediately instructed barrister Mairead Carey to act on behalf of the mother and baby who was in a friend’s house.

“A large number of gardai surrounded the house and went inside and announced to those inside that they were under house arrest, causing a significant degree of distress to the mother,” Mr O’Higgins told the court.

Following negotiations between the family solicitor and the gardaí, the garda presence surrounding the househad been reduced..

Shortly afterwards a Garda application had been made to the District Court which had been told of Garda concern about a risk to the child’s safety. “There is a suspicion that this was enjoined retrospectively to justify the Garda presence at the house and the house arrest,” Mr O’Higgins said.

Mr O’Higgins said the District Court judge, after hearing evidence from four HSE witnesses, had not made any order but said he was satisfied a risk existed and that it was a matter for the High Court. He said no complaint was directed against the mother of the child but against her husband.

Mr O’Higgins said he was not in a position at this stage to produce expert opinion as to the effect the separation would have on mother-child bonding but one could imagine the level of distress the taking away of her day-old child would have on her. The child was being breast fed and there was likely to be damage, possibly permanent, flowing from the breaking of that bond. He said the mother had given an undertaking that she would reside with her baby separate from its father.

Judge Ryan ordered there should be an inquiry into the lawfulness of the child’s detention by the HSE and said he would sit in the High Court tomorrow morning at 10 o’clock to deal with the matter. In the meantime he would give liberty to either party to apply to the court, if necessary, prior to that time.