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Judge orders placement for adoption for three children amid extreme over-reaction of parents to involvement of professionals

A High Court judge has ordered that three children be placed for adoption after calling their mother “the most egregious liar I have ever encountered”.

He admitted he had been wrong in earlier to place any trust in what was said by the children’s father too and that he had lied in his evidence.

In A, B & C (Children: Adoption), Re [2020] Mr Justice Keehan said he had expressed the clear view on numerous occasions in the history of the case, especially at a hearing on 18th December 2019, that he did not want to find himself contemplating the placement of A and B, and now C, for adoption.

“The parents deeply love their children and the children love them. There is no question, and never has been, that the parents are more than able to meet the basic care needs of the children,” he said.

“The stumbling block is the parents' irrational and extreme over-reaction to the involvement of professionals in their lives and those of their children, most especially social workers.”

The children are now aged three, two and 10 months.

Mr Justice Keehan said that in closing submissions made on behalf of the mother and of the father it was submitted that the facts of this case did not warrant the making of orders which would separate the children from their parents for the remainder of their lives or, at least, for the remainder of their respective childhoods.

It was submitted that if the local authority had desisted and/or would desist in the future from involvement in the lives of the parents and the children, all would be fine and the children would be well cared for by their parents.

"These submissions completely ignore the history of this case and the findings of fact that I made in March 2019," the judge said. "The local authority has constantly sought to work in partnership with these parents and to support them in their care of the children. At each turn their efforts to work with the parents have been rebuffed and/or apparent co-operation has subsequently been found to be based on lies and deceit."

Both parents were originally from Ghana and were found to have taken the children out of the jurisdiction at various points.

The unnamed local authority in the case had applied for care orders for all three and later made placement applications.

An incident at the family home in May 2017 led to the police attending because of an injury sustained by A, who was taken to hospital and kept overnight for observations.

Keehan J said: “I found that the mother had lied with outstanding alacrity throughout the whole of her evidence to a degree to which I have hitherto not encountered.”

He found she had lied about the incident in which A was injured.

“I found that a 72-day old, non-ambulant baby had sustained a bruise above his right eyebrow,” Keehan J said, referring an earlier fact-finding hearing.

"This bruise occurred when he was in the care of the mother and/or the father; neither of them had made any attempt to offer any sort of explanation for that injury and in so young a child I was satisfied and found, on the balance of probabilities, that this was an inflicted injury.”

The father was interviewed by police but the mother declined to give evidence against him and entered what the judge called “a working agreement with the local authority”, under which the father was not to attend at the family home.

He was though found by police hiding in a cupboard during a ‘safe and well check’ two months later.

In December 2017, the mother and A left the jurisdiction after the local authority served papers concerning the care proceedings.

It became impossible to determine A’s whereabouts and the court made a publicity order in June 2018, which was by chance seen by a nurse in Jacksonville, Florida, who recognised the mother as having just given birth to B there.

American authorities arrested the father and placed both children in care before they eventually returned to a foster home in the UK.

Keehan J said the mother had abducted A in breach of court orders and the father had failed to disclose to the local authority that he was leaving the UK to go to the USA.

“Both failed to disclose the whereabouts of A. I found that they had sought to thwart the local authority's intervention and role in their lives and, importantly, in the life of A,” he said.

In September 2019 police stopped a car on the road to Stranraer and the driver produced a provisional driving licence in the name of the father and said he was travelling to the ferry accompanied by his wife. The father and the mother both denied this was them.

The mother was found to have gone to Northern Ireland then given brith to C in Drogheda in the Republic of Ireland.

She said she made the hour’s journey from Warrenpoint in Northern Ireland to Drrogheda because a taxi driver took her there and he gave the false name and address for her that the hospital recorded.

Keehan J said: “The difficulty with this explanation is that: there is no reference to this account in any of the mother's statements; the only matter which is referred to in her penultimate witness statement about these events, is a complete denial of any knowledge as to how the hospital came to be given a false name; and at a consultant paediatrician's appointment for C in the Republic of Ireland on 9 October 2019, the mother signed certain documentation in the given false name.”

At a final hearing in July Keehan J asked the mother if her statements were true, and she replied that 70% were.

Asked to explain she said she had been confused by the legal terminology used when her counsel asked her if the contents of her statement was true.

The judge said: “It was not her counsel who had asked her if the contents of her statements were true, I had asked the question, I did not use any legal terminology and at the beginning of her oral evidence she said she had understood my question.”

Keeham J concluded; “The mother and the father have serially lied to the court, to the social workers, to the children's guardian and to every other professional with whom they have had contact, including the police and health professionals.

“The mother is the most egregious liar I have ever encountered. The father has also serially lied to the court, to the social workers and to the children's guardian.

“Worst of all he lied to me about his separation from the mother; his commitment to maintain that separation and not to have any contact with the mother; and his commitment to put caring for A and B to the fore.”

The last point had led the judge to require the local authority to pursue a rehabilitation plan for A and B to live with their father, contrary to the local authority's care plan and recommendation of the children's guardian.

"They were right and I was wrong to have placed trust in the father,” the judge said.

“I am bound to conclude, on the totality of the evidence that I have heard, that I cannot trust a single word said by either of these parents.”

He ordered that adoption placements should be found for the three children and if possible they should be placed together.

Mark Smulian

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