Diane Taylor and Hugh Muir
Saturday September 15, 2007
One of the longest child custody cases in British legal history is to return to the high court as an infertile African couple make a new attempt to recover the child they claim as their "miracle" baby.
They claim the welfare of the three-year-old boy is a matter of serious concern. The claims are contested by Haringey council in north London.
The case, which was apparently settled last July, provoked controversy because the boy was claimed by the couple to have been the result of divine intervention. They are members of Gilbert Deya Ministries, the evangelical church which claims to be Britain's fastest growing religious movement.
Its leader, Gilbert Deya, claims to have used prayer to help infertile members of his congregation have children but in 2004 Mr Justice Ryder ruled that the baby, known as C, had in fact been trafficked into Britain from Kenya. Mr Deya's wife, Mary, was jailed in May after a court in Nairobi found her guilty of child stealing. Kenya has also sought the extradition of Mr Deya.
Last year Mr Justice Ryder ended a custody battle which began when C was just a few weeks old and was forcibly removed from his "miracle" parents by police and social workers. The judge ruled Haringey council should be allowed to send him for long term adoption by another couple.
In doing so, he turned down the claims of the African couple, named in court as Mr and Mrs E, and C's long-term foster carer, Mrs F. She also applied to keep the boy, with whom she was, according to the judge, "very well bonded".
Gwen Williams, solicitor for Mrs E, said that an application was being made for a residency order for C: "Mr and Mrs E have information that gives rise to genuine concerns. They are concerned he is unhappily placed with his adoptive family."
There have been concerns about the number of placements endured by the parentless, rootless child and the way he was moved from his "miracle" parents to a series of foster placements, to his long-term foster mother - with whom he spent half his life - and from her to his adoptive parents. Mr Justice Ryder said the "distressing scenes" which accompanied the first forced removal should have been avoided. The second removal happened without warning while C was with his foster mother in a play area.
Mr Deya claimed the system has failed the boy. "An injustice has been done to this child by taking him away from his parents in the way that he was. No other parents have ever been identified for this child and it would be in the interests of the child for him to be returned to Mr and Mrs E." A spokesman for Haringey council said: "Our view is that this is a good family for child C to be with. The child is happy and doing well."
Whatever the outcome of the new hearing, set for September 24, the continuing controversy represents a tragedy for C. He was brought into the UK from Kenya in October 2003 when he was 16 days old. Mrs E's GP raised the alarm when she arrived claiming to have given birth because he had already treated her for sickle cell anaemia and knew she was infertile.
She told the court that 22 "miracle" births had occurred in Mr Deya's church, which was described as displaying an eclectic mix of traditional African custom and charismatic belief.
The GP alerted Haringey social services, who conducted a DNA test which showed that C was not the couple's biological child. Efforts to find his real parents failed and he was adopted by a family of Caribbean origin.