Monday, November 26, 2007
From the guardian.com: A British woman who conceived a child after a one-night stand with a colleague and hid her pregnancy from everyone has won the right to keep the birth a secret from the father.
The woman, who is now 20 and cannot be named for legal reasons, became pregnant when she was 19, but did not realise until a late stage. She told no one, shunned medical help until she went into labour, and put the girl up for adoption as soon as she was born.
In September, after an application from the local authority, a county court judge ruled that the woman's parents and the father of the child should be told. But yesterday, three appeal judges overruled him and, in a landmark judgment, agreed that the mother has "the ultimate veto" over who should be told about her child.
They ordered that the local authority and guardian take no steps to identify the father or tell him about the birth of the girl, who is now 19 weeks old. They also banned the authority from introducing the girl to any of the mother's family to assess them as potential carers. Her family had found out about the child during the proceedings after the local authority wrote to them by mistake.
None of the names and locations of those involved in the case can be published by order of the court to protect the mother's wishes that the father should never know about his child.
Lady Justice Arden said the county court judge had made his order because he believed the local authority had a duty under the law to find out as much information about the background of the family as it could. But she said: "In my judgment, when a decision requires to be made about the long-term care of a child, whom a mother wishes to be adopted, there is no duty to make inquiries which it is not in the interests of the child to make, and inquiries are not in the interests of the child simply because they will provide more information about the child's background.
"They must genuinely further the prospect of finding a long-term carer for the child without delay. This interpretation does not violate the right to family life."
She said that the judge had directed himself according to the wrong principle, and that the appeal must be allowed.
Lord Justice Thorpe described the case as "on any view extraordinary". "I need only refer to the mother's success in concealing the pregnancy from her family, her employers and her fellow employees," he said. "Her immediate request that her daughter should be placed for adoption at the earliest opportunity was entirely consistent with all that she had done and all that she had not done prior to the delivery."
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]