Parents seek injunctions preventing adoption of 3 children removed to UK

Court criticises conduct of Irish and English social workers involved in case

Mr Justice Gerard Hogan noted the English council had said it did not intend to return the children irrespective of the outcome of the appeal. Photograph:  Collins Courts

Mr Justice Gerard Hogan noted the English council had said it did not intend to return the children irrespective of the outcome of the appeal. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

The Court of Appeal has been asked to grant an injunction preventing an English county council proceeding with adoption of a baby removed from Ireland without the parents having an opportunity to object.

The application follows earlier criticism by the appeal court of the conduct of Irish and English social workers involved in removing the baby and two siblings last September.

That removal came after proceedings taken by the English council here with the co-operation of Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.

Mr Justice Gerard Hogan, on behalf of the Court of Appeal, said Irish social workers must “stop immediately” the “wholly unlawful” practice of acting in conjunction with their UK counterparts in seeking the return to Britain of children at the centre of care proceedings without the parents’ knowledge of that application.

If it does not stop, social workers could face contempt of court proceedings, he said.

A practice had grown in recent times whereby UK social workers travel to Ireland to arrange the return of children by applying to the courts here without notice to the parents “thus depriving them of any opportunity” to challenge the proceedings, he said.

It was difficult “to avoid the impression that the childcare system provided for under the Child Care Act 1991 is being circumvented for this purpose”, he said.

His comments were made during an appeal concerning the three children, all under six, brought by their British parents to Ireland last autumn when the youngest was just two days old.

Care orders

The two older children had been subject of interim care orders in the UK and, three days after they left, all three were made wards of court by the English high court.

Concerns was previously expressed by the social services unit of their local county council about the standards of hygiene within the home, parental capacity to manage the children, domestic violence in previous relationships and parental substance abuse, Mr Justice Hogan said.

The same day as the wardship orders were obtained in the UK, the English social services contacted Tusla to say they had also obtained the requisite orders that the children be returned.

Tusla later made an unannounced visit to the home of the family here.

Mr Justice Hogan said it was important to note that “nothing of concern” was found.

With the consent of the parents, the District Court here granted interim care orders to the agency and the children were placed in foster care.

The agency told the parents the UK social services would apply to the High Court here, without notice to the parents, for enforcement of the English court orders for the children’s return.

Rosslare port

The High Court granted an ex-parte (one-side only represented) application by the English council and the three children were handed over by Tusla to English social workers at Rosslare port and brought to the UK. The parents were told afterwards as the English social workers believed they were a flight risk.

After the parents’ challenge to the Irish High Court order was ruled out of time by two days, they went to the three-judge Court of Appeal.

Mr Justice Hogan noted the English council, which did not participate in the Court of Appeal hearing for financial reasons, had said it did not intend to return the children irrespective of the outcome of the appeal.

The English council also began moves to have the youngest child adopted in the UK.

On Wednesday, lawyers for the parents asked the Court of Appeal to grant an injunction preventing the UK council taking any further steps in those adoption proceedings. The council was not represented.

Following arguments from lawyers for the parents and the Attorney General, before the court as an amicus curiae (assistant to the court), the Court of Appeal said it would give its decision as soon as possible given the urgency of the situation.