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Council wins adoption gag order
A local authority has won a High Court order restricting reporting relating to the case of an Italian woman whose child was taken into care after she was forced to have her baby delivered by Caesarean section.
A judge ordered that the child's identity and the identity of "potential adopters" who had been found for the 15-month-old girl by Essex County Council social services must not be revealed to prevent "damage" to the child.
The new adoption moves will come as a blow to the mother, who is pleading for a "second chance" to prove she could care for the baby girl with the support of her family in Italy.
The judge refused to completely anonymise the mother, saying that she was "seeking to make assertions to the effect that she has been unlawfully, wrongly and badly treated".
He ruled her married name should be kept secret to prevent the public linking her to the child, but she could be referred to by the media by her maiden name, Alessandra Pacchieri, which has already been used in the Italian press.
Ms Pacchieri has told Italian newspapers: "I want my daughter back. I am suffering like an animal."
The judge revealed that the Italian government, or state, had now instructed solicitors and might want to intervene in the case.
Ms Pacchieri, 35, who suffers from bipolar disorder, is reported to have come to Britain whilst pregnant to attend a training course with an airline at Stansted Airport in Essex.
After she stopped taking medication she had a panic attack and was sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
The Court of Protection took the unusual step of giving a health trust permission for doctors to carry out a Caesarean section in August last year, and the newborn child was taken into care by Essex social services.
A health trust responsible for her treatment took "a clinical decision" to carry out the Caesarean "because of concerns about risks to mother and child".
Today Mr Justice Mostyn said he made the ruling after doctors told him that Ms Pacchieri risked rupture if she was to have given birth naturally.
"The application to me was not made by the local authority or social workers," he said.
"Rather, it was an urgent application first made by the NHS Trust, supported by the clear evidence of a consultant obstetrician and the patient's own treating consultant psychiatrist, seeking a declaration and order that it would be in the medical best interests of this seriously mentally ill and incapacitated patient, who had undergone two previous elective caesarean sections, to have this birth, the due date of which was imminent (she was 39 weeks pregnant), in the same manner.
"The patient was represented by the official solicitor who instructed a Queen's Counsel on her behalf. He did not seek an adjournment and did not oppose the application, agreeing that the proposed delivery by caesarean section was in the best interests of the patient herself who risked uterine rupture with a natural vaginal birth."
In February, Judge Newton, sitting at Chelmsford County Court, ruled that although the mother's condition had improved and she was "extremely well" when she gave evidence, adoption was the best way to provide "a permanent, predictable and stable home" for the baby. The council had argued adoption was "the only safe route".
The case has drawn wide publicity, even though it was heard in private.
The lawyer for the mother said earlier today the decision to force the baby to be delivered by Caesarean section was "absolutely unreasonable",
Stefano Oliva said the unnamed woman wanted a "second chance" to prove she could care for the baby girl with the support of her family.
Mr Oliva said the mother was permitted to see her baby once a week until the end of October, when she moved back to Italy to get support from her family.
After returning to her home country she came back to Britain once a month to visit the child. This arrangement stood until May this year when social workers told her it would be the last time she would see her daughter, he said.
The president of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, has ordered that any further applications relating to the baby, known only as P, must be transferred to the High Court.
This is likely to include applications by Ms Pacchieri to block her child's adoption in the UK.
Today Sir James was not available, and Mr Justice Charles stepped in and allowed Essex Council's urgent application for reporting restrictions.
The judge said the order should remain in place until 4pm on Friday, December 13, but interested parties could seek to have it discharged or varied on giving no less than two hours notice.