It has recently been reported that a 16-year-old mother was ordered to give her child up for adoption when a Judge found her unfit to be a mother.
In a hearing that seemingly heard only 13 minutes of evidence, Judge Helen Black ordered the mother to give her baby up for adoption because she failed to understand “what being a parent is about”.
The court noted that the family had been under observation of Social Services for a number of years.
Judge Black’s decision has rightly come under scrutiny from the Court of Appeal, who have directed that there needs to be rehearing before a different judge so the matter can be considered properly and fairly.
The Court of Appeal suggested that Judge Black has “conspicuously failed” in her role of giving a proper judgement and simply made her own mind up that the mother did not deserve any chance to raise her baby. Judge Black even had discussions with the 16-year-old’s lawyer out of the court to put pressure onto their client to give up their baby, which on any analysis does not offer a fair hearing.
Appeal Court Judge Lord Justice Baker said:
Judge Black is a highly respected and very experienced family Judge who is well aware of the need to ensure that the line between robustness and unfairness is not crossed.
I regret to say however that I am in no doubt that the line was crossed in this case.
Whilst it is positive that there is to be a rehearing so the issue can be looked at fairly, it is understood that the baby has now placed with new adoptive parents, pursuant to the original judge’s decision and has been there for six months at the time of the appeal.
The original decision and the successful appeal will therefore certainly have wide ranging consequences for this child no matter what the outcome of the retrial.
This case is a stark reminder to all that the child protection process needs to be fair on all parties – no matter what the history or the age of the mum.