(Family Division, Hedley J, 30 July 2012)
The mother, who had experienced a disrupted childhood, was vulnerable and suffered from significant learning difficulties. Her three previous children were all placed for adoption and the local authority plan was for the most recent baby to be adopted. The mother opposed adoption and wished to care for her.
Previous assessments of her parenting capacity were all negative. On the day of the birth the mother consented to accommodation of the child pursuant to s 20 of the Children Act 1989 but the mother did not have access to her lawyer until after the child's placement.
The mother and child claimed under s 7 of the Human Rights Act 1998. It was clear that the baby's best interests were fulfilled by adoption. However, the local authority accepted that the rights of the mother and baby under Art 8 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms 1950 were breached on the day of the child's birth. The mother could only provide the relevant consent under s 20 if she had the requisite capacity in light of the Mental Capacity Act 2005. Hedley J provided guidance on s 20 procedures, approved by the President of the Family Division.