Child snatched in RSPCA raid must be given up for adoption, rules judge

Date: 2009-07-09

By Tom Kelly

A couple who say their daughter was 'kidnapped' by social services yesterday lost a two-year legal battle to stop her being adopted.

The child was taken away from her parents at the age of five after they were arrested for failing to co-operate with police during a raid on a dog-breeding business run from their home.

But the girl had never been physically harmed and was 'thriving and happy' before being taken away, the Court of Appeal was told.

The mother, a 43-year-old former vice chairman of the local Conservative Association, and her husband, 31, launched a desperate legal fight to try to get their child back.

But yesterday, after 74 separate court hearings, they were told that they had failed to show they could put their daughter's 'emotional well being' before their own and that she should be adopted.

Alison Ball QC, for the mother, told the hearing: 'As the parents saw it, their child had been kidnapped.

'They woke up one morning and the police came into their house and within a few hours their child was taken into care and has not been returned since.

She acknowledged there 'may have been some behavioural issues' but added: 'This was not a case where the parents have broken the children's bones.'

As the judge refused permission to appeal, the tearful mother cried out: 'Why can't you let me fight for my child?'

Concerns about the parents had been raised when the father threatened staff at her school after an unfounded claim that a teacher had hit the child, the court heard.

A few weeks later, in March 2007, the police and the RSPCA raided the family home after a tip-off that the father was mistreating dogs.

After the parents refused to allow a search, 18 officers using pepper spray descended on the house, prompting 'chaotic scenes'.

In front of their daughter, both parents were handcuffed and arrested, with the father hurling abuse at the officers.

Police who carried out the raid said the house was covered in rabbit entrails and animal excrement.

The child's bedroom also had a hole in the roof and the duvet was filthy.

The couple claimed most of the mess was caused during the raid and that they were about to move house, which is why the bedroom was in such a state.

A policewoman who had visited the house a month earlier on an unrelated matter said that it was a clean and tidy house and that the girl seemed 'happy.'

The child was taken into care by East Sussex County Council following the raid, and later put into the care of foster parents.

When the couple were allowed to see their daughter a week later the father 'lost it' and confronted social workers, which scared his daughter, the court heard.

Miss Ball said this was because he feared for his child's welfare after the building they met her in was surrounded by 'rubbish, dirty nappies and syringes'.

The parents also underwent psychological tests to assess if they were fit to look after their child. The results were conflicting and a judge ordered a fifth test.

When the parents refused, the judge ordered the child to be put up for adoption at a hearing in March.

Yesterday the mother said she was willing to undergo the new psychological test. But the father said he did not want to as this would further delay getting their daughter back.

But Appeal Court judge Mr Justice Bodey said the parents had been given every opportunity to help the court. The fact that the mother was now prepared to have the assessment was 'too little too late', he said.

The couple released a joint statement vowing to fight on. 'If it is a case of taking it to the next step, the European Court, then so be it,' they said.


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