SAD005 - Telegraph 09-Jul-09 Murray Wardrop
Couple fail to prevent daughter being adopted after 'kidnap' by social services
A couple yesterday failed in a two-year legal battle to prevent their daughter being adopted after they claim she was "kidnapped" by social services.
By Murray Wardrop
Published: 7:00AM BST 09 Jul 2009
The girl was taken into care in 2007 after police and animal welfare officers raided the parents' home, but she has never been returned to them since.
The parents, who cannot be named for legal reasons, have fought in vain at 73 previous court appearances for the right to bring up their own child.
Yesterday, they took their case to London's Court of Appeal where they applied for the right to appeal against a final decision in March that their daughter be placed with foster parents.
However, their application was turned down on the grounds that their level of cooperation with social workers came "too little and too late".
It is claimed that the girl was taken into care despite being "thriving and happy" in the care of her parents.
The court heard that concerns over the child's welfare were first raised in April 2007 when police and RSPCA inspectors visited the couple's Sussex home.
Acting on reports that they were docking the tails of dogs - a practice which had just been outlawed at the time - 18 police officers raided the property and arrested the couple.
Their daughter was taken into care by East Sussex County Council after she was left "traumatised" by the "chaotic" scene and the sight of her parents being handcuffed.
Social workers raised fears for the child's emotional wellbeing due to her parents' allegedly volatile behaviour during the raid and at a subsequent contact meeting with the girl.
There were also concerns about the cleanliness of their home after officers found the walls and floors caked in dog faeces and dead rabbits, the court heard.
However, the mother's barrister, Alison Ball QC, claimed the incident was a "one off for a family where the child was being well looked after and happily brought up".
She said: "She (the girl) did appear to be a child who was thriving and happy in the care of her parents.
"They (the parents) saw it as their child being kidnapped, and one can see why.
"They woke up one morning and the police and RSPCA came into their house, and within a few hours their child was taken away and they have not had her back since."
Ms Ball added that the parents "overreacted" at a series of court appearances, talks with social workers, and contact meetings with their daughter because they feared there was "no way of getting their child back".
She said this was "unhelpful" and that their lack of cooperation ultimately led to the courts' decision for the girl, now aged seven, to remain in care.
The court heard that the couple underwent four psychological tests, to assess whether they were fit to look after their daughter.
When these produced conflicting results, a fifth assessment was ordered.
After the parents refused this, a judge issued a care and placement order.
At yesterday's hearing, the mother said she was now willing to have a further assessment, but her husband said he would not.
Representing himself in court, the father said: "If no one can answer after four assessments what kind of parents we are, there has to be something wrong with the handling of the case.
"The parents have been forced to jump through every hoop and the child has been pulled backwards.
"I think it's now time to bring us back together as a family because this is what our daughter needs." However, Mr Justice Bodey, sitting with Lord Justice Thorpe and Lord Justice Longmore, refused their application to appeal.
He said the judge who issued a care and placement order for their daughter in March had given them every opportunity to cooperate, so that their child could be returned to them.
The judge said the fact the mother had agreed to a psychological assessment, but the father had not was "too little and too late".
He added that the previous judgement had said the parents had failed to put their child's emotional wellbeing before their own.
Following the ruling, the mother fought back tears and shouted at the judges: "Why can't I fight for my child?"
However the couple last night vowed to continue their battle. In a statement outside court, they said: "The fight goes on.
"If it is a case of taking it the next step, to the European Court, then so be it."
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