Nottingham City Council has agreed to pay damages to an 18-year-old mother after admitting it acted unlawfully in taking away her newborn baby.
The baby, known as K, was removed by social workers without a court order just hours after being born at the end of last month.
The day after her baby was taken the mother – known only as G – was reunited with him after an emergency High Court ruling that “on the face of it” he was removed without authority.
But within days Nottingham City Council placed K with a foster family after a judge at Nottingham County Court granted an interim care order.
Today, before both sides agreed to compromise, the council planned to argue that G – who had a troubled childhood and mental health problems – had not objected to her baby being removed.
G’s barrister, Ian Wise, countered the allegations and denied she had seen a birth plan setting out that K was to be removed.
He said: “She never saw the birth plan before the birth of the baby and was unaware of any proposal for an interim care order and never consented to the removal.
“At the time of removal there was uproar from the mother and her family so there certainly wasn’t any consent at a prior stage or time when removal was given effect.”
The judge, Mr Justice Munby, said that just because G did not object did not mean she consented.
The council’s barrister, David Lock, told the High Court in Liverpool: “I am entirely happy to accept that, on behalf of the local authority, it did not have an agreement from the claimant sufficient to be consent in law.”
The council also admitted that G was not given proper care. The mother should have been given an independent personal adviser to help make plans for her future, but her adviser also worked for the council and “had feet in both camps”, the court heard. The council agreed to look at how personal advisers were used for all people in their care.
Nottingham City Council will reimburse G for a loss of benefits and pay her £110 per week until March 17 when she might be admitted to an assessment centre.
Today’s family proceedings judicial review, often held behind closed doors, was held in open court, but discussions about the mother and son’s future were held in private.
Mr Justice Munby had described G as possibly being at a “turning point in her life”.
He said: “Her problems are deep-seated and longstanding and likely to require appropriate support and assistance for some time in the future.”
A legal source said the case was now delicately balanced and suggested it was likely G and K would be reunited soon in a mother and baby unit. Currently, G has limited daily access to her son.
Speaking outside court, G’s solicitor Ash Bhatai, said the city council had 14 days to agree a damages figure with G or the case would return to Mr Justice Munby, who will issue a judgment at an unspecified date in London.
Judge returns new-born to social workers for foster placement