Getting Irate So That You Don't Have To

Getting Irate So That You Don't Have To

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Inncocent, And Sentened For Life

It would be easy for me to go into full-scale rant mode here, but as it's a story about children I'll try to temper my anger.

In 2004 Nicky and Mark Webster were forced to hand their three children over for adoption because a court had concluded that they had intentionally hurt one of them. Doctors diagnosed leg fractures as being the result of child abuse.

In 2006, with Nicky pregnant again, they fled to Ireland to protect their unborn child from the UK authorities, but vowed to continue the fight to clear their names. Their fourth child, Brandon, was allowed to stay with his parents but yesterday lost their legal battle to get their other three children back. All well and good, you might say, if they'd been found guilty of child abuse. Except they haven't.

In 2007 a court decided that the injuries previously attributed to child abuse may have been caused by scurvy. This was believed to have been brought about by the family GP's advice that the child should be fed on soya milk, which is lacking in vitamin C. Thus we have a couple who are, in the eyes of the law and the new medical evidence, entirely innocent of any crime, but who cannot win their children back.

The reason is that adoption is seen as final. Once an order is granted, it cannot be revoked. You can see the reasoning behind this, I guess. Children need stability and certainty, and do not deserve to have the threat of claim and counter-claim hanging over them once the adoption orders have been granted.

But there is another principle at stake here, and it concerns one of punishment by the State. To me any sentence or penalty imposed by the State should be reversible. If I am fined for an offence which I am later found not to have committed I should be reimbursed. If I am incarcerated unjustly I cannot have my time given back to me but I should at least be released once my innocence is proven. But for the Websters, who will never see their kids again, there is no release; their sentence is life-long, and more painful that most of us can imagine. As it is for their children, forever denied access to their biological parents, and for little Brandon, who will never see his siblings.

This is fundamentally wrong. The State has no right to treat parents in this way. Adoption may be a complex, heart-rendering business, and it may be a legal minefield already. But something, somewhere has to change to give wrongly-accused parents the right to get their children back.

Full story here.

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