A few weeks ago we read some dramatic criticisms of the courts in the case of an Italian mother and Essex County Council.  One headline said “Women’s baby taken from womb by Social Services.”  There was supposedly a “secret” hearing in the Court of Protection which led to this treatment of the Italian mother.

Shortly before Christmas the President of the Family Division commented on this when he dealt with an application by Essex County Council for a Reporting Restriction Order.  While at the same time suggesting that it is the responsibility of the press to get the facts right, he said that the media can hardly be blamed for inaccuracy if for whatever reason none of the relevant information has been made public.  He said the case must “surely stand as final, stark and irrefutable demonstration of the pressing need for radical changes… as to transparency.”

But first, the facts as he laid them out.

The Italian mother came on a short visit to England in 2012.  She was pregnant at the time.  Following a mental health episode she was compulsorily detained pursuant to the Mental Health Act, presumably for her own safety.  Because she was about to give birth, and there were complications the NHS Trust – note, not Essex County Council social workers – made an urgent application for the Court of Protection to authorise a Caesarean section, because the mother did not have the mental capacity at that time to make a decision in the best interests of herself and the baby.  The baby was born by caesarean section and the next day Essex County Council began care proceedings, again presumably because the mother was not in a mental state to care for the baby.  Council social workers supervised some contact with the mother, who returned to Italy about two months after the birth.  A few months after that Essex County Court asked the Court for leave to place the baby for adoption, and the court granted that in October 2013.  The mother attended at least one hearing in England, and never appealed any of the Orders.  Instead, she took various proceedings in the Italian courts, but unsurprisingly nothing resulted from those.

The judge, Sir James Munby, pointed out that logically there were three particular competing interests that he had to consider : –

  1. The public has an interest in knowing and discussing what has been done in this case.  He said it was hard to imagine a case “which more obviously and compellingly requires the public debate to be free and unrestrictive.”
  2. The mother has an equally obvious and compelling claim to be allowed to tell her story to the world.  In free society, parents who feel aggrieved at the judicial system should be free to complain as they see fit.  The implication is that reporting restrictions are not intended to protect the feelings of judges.
  3. The baby, in its new adopted home has a compelling claim to privacy and anonymity.

Sir James concluded that the continuing anonymisation of the child was an overwhelming argument and his or her anonymity should be protected.  Beyond that, he would not go.  If the mother wished to identify herself, that was entirely her decision and the public indeed had an interest in knowing and discussing what had been done.  As Sir James said, “how can the family justice system blame the media for inaccuracy in the reporting of family cases if for whatever reason none of the relevant information has been put before the public?”

Got a question? Ask us now…

Kindly complete the form below to send an enquiry. Your message will be sent to one of our solicitors. Discretion is guaranteed.

Your Information

  • Consider including information such as: the name of your spouse (if relevant), the country you live in, the background to your problem.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Over 2000 FREE
consultations and counting…

Our free consultation can help you more clearly understand the legal issues relating your case and what your options are to move forward.

Request your free consultation

Or send us an enquiry

I had a 30-minute consultation with Samantha Jago where she clearly explained all my options and followed up with a detailed email of notes. I would highly recommend if you need help to clarify where you stand and getting options for how you move forward.

Jun 2024   Katherine Davey

I recently had a one hour pro bono consultation with Samantha Jago. I was really blown away by how much she was able to digest in such a short period of time and even more so by the report which I received shortly after.

Apr 2024   S DF

I had applied for a free consultation and I was contacted in a very short timeframe. Thank you so much for the insightful and thorough consultation, Kevin Danagher. You made me feel at ease and you provided clear expectations with the initial info I had provided... I have now a much better understanding on my query.

Feb 2024   Sonia Accardi

We had a very useful first consultation with Amber Matheson today. Amber took the time to understand our (somewhat complicated) set-up, and offered good, understandable advice on next steps. She followed up with a very thorough email clarifying what we had discussed. Highly recommended.

Feb 2024   Lucie

Lovely friendly experience. All questions were answered so that I understood completely.

Dec 2023   Ali Catlin

Very balanced, fair and pragmatic advice. Thoroughly recommend!!

Nov 2023   James Elliott

Henry graciously provided his time for a consultation. I found him to be highly knowledgeable, empathetic and he provided excellent advice which put my mind at ease. Would highly recommend Henry and his firm.

Oct 2023   Allan Ang

Henry Brookman went above and beyond during the free consultation, and even overran the allocated time. He provided invaluable professional advice in a courteous manner. I recommend his firm without reservation.

Sep 2023   Mario Ignatov

I only had my initial free review with Amelia yet I already feel much more strengthened in my legal and financial position. I am currently reflecting on the steps I want to take to negotiate my desired outcome of the financial settlement but, when I am ready to use the services of a lawyer, Amelia is definitely the top on my list.

Sep 2023   Nahid Toubia

I had a zoom consultation with Lauren Moir and she was incredible. Very patient, insightful and reassuring. She also advised me based on my previous conversations with another firm and also clarified various positions I am in. Highly recommend.

Aug 2023   Gary Hawes

I was very impressed with the friendly, helpful and professional service offered by Brookman Solicitors. The generous advice and knowledge offered during the initial free consultation has enabled us to have a much better understanding of our case and plan a way forward.

Jul 2023   Peter Jackson

I had a first consultation with Kevin, who very diligently and professionally provided an exhaustive overview of the divorce process and the best approach for my specific case.

Jul 2023   Giulia Matteo

Great service and excellent advice at the initial consultation. I would certainly recommend and use in the future.

Jul 2023   Tom James

Google Reviews
Ask A Question

Contact Us

If you have questions, contact us now, we can help you.

Enquire Now

Or call us on +44 (0)20 7430 8470