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Sunday, 14 June 2009

SUNDAY TIMES - Daniel FOGGO - 14-Jun-2009

SUNDAY TIMES - Daniel FOGGO - 14-Jun-2009

From The Sunday Times June 14, 2009

More ‘stupid’ mothers prevented from fighting adoptions
Daniel Foggo

A SECOND case has emerged of a woman who has had her children taken away from her and been prevented from objecting because she was judged “too stupid” by the authorities.

Lawyers acting for the 24-year-old from Nottingham, who has had two daughters adopted, say she has since shown herself far brighter than was believed when the original judgment was made.

But it is now too late for her to go back to court for the return of her children.

Last month, The Sunday Times reported a similar case of a mother deemed too unintelligent to care for her child.

New figures show that hundreds of parents have had the official solicitor, currently Alastair Pitblado, imposed.

Since January 2006 his department has been brought in to represent 588 parents deemed to “lack the mental capacity” to instruct lawyers in cases where their children faced the possibility of adoption.

Last month The Sunday Times highlighted the case of Rachel, also a 24-year-old from Nottingham, who is taking her legal challenge to the European Court of Human Rights after her three-year-old daughter was ordered to be adopted because she was ruled not to be intelligent enough to care for her.

In the latest case the mother’s two daughters were both adopted in 2006 after a health worker noticed that her living conditions were unsatisfactory.

Before the case was finalised in court, however, it was decided that the woman lacked the intelligence to instruct her own lawyer, which led to the official solicitor being brought in. A psychologist’s report gave her a low IQ but said her learning disability would improve in time.

The mother insisted that she wanted to keep her girls but the official solicitor said she did not have a case at the time and did not contest the adoptions on her behalf.

Her solicitor, Simon Leach, who runs Nottingham Family Law Associates, said: “I would have liked her to have given evidence, or certainly have someone speak on her behalf, so it could be explained at length why she should keep her children. But the system would not allow it.

“At that time she had little or no understanding of what her children needed but she was very loving of her children and still is.

“But I sat down with her last week and she was using words she could never have used before. It was clear to me that her level of understanding had improved considerably.”

Leach said there were still question marks over whether she would be able to care properly for the girls but since the adoption had already happened the issue could no longer be addressed. “It’s too late now,” he said. He added that his firm had been involved in up to 20 cases in which their clients were handed over to the official solicitor.

The official solicitor typically declines to contest any final care orders.

Leach said this was because the system did not allow the official solicitor to do so.

He said: “I think the official solicitor should be able to put a case. It’s not just about justice, it’s about justice being seen to be done.”

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