Cllr Angela Mason: ‘The right decision’
Published: 18 October, 2012
by RICHARD OSLEY
THE Town Hall has been vindicated in the High Court for placing two boys in need of adoption with a gay couple after facing a legal challenge from their birth mother.
Camden Council was told by three of the country’s most senior family judges that it had acted appropriately over the adoption and had moved to provide the children, aged four and six, with a loving home.
If the council had lost the case, it could have had wide-ranging legal ramifications affecting the powers local authorities have to place children with gay and lesbian couples.
The Court of Appeal in Holborn was told the children’s mother had appealed against an order ruling that she was incapable of looking after the boys only when she discovered they would be placed with two homosexual men.
Since being given details of the placement, the mother, a highly educated woman who the court was told had been troubled by alcoholism, had fought to get them back.
The eminent judge, Dame Janet Smith, told the court on Tuesday that the mother and the boys’ father had been “distressed” to learn of the sexual orientation of the prospective adopters. But the judge said of the gay couple: “The evidence was all one way. This couple are suitable adoptive parents and there is no specific reason to think that the placement might fail.”
The gay couple had, she added, been through a rigorous selection process and Camden was convinced they will “provide a secure and loving home” for the children.
Dame Janet said the children had been freed for adoption by a judge in September last year. The mother did not appeal against that and only launched her battle to revoke the order in April this year after finding out that her children’s prospective adopters were gay.
The judge, sitting with Lord Justice Longmore and Lady Justice Black, said the case revealed “a sad human story” of parents who met at a detox clinic but who had never managed to conquer their mutual dependence on alcohol and lost their children as a result.
Although the mother was “very successful” in early life, she and her partner fought drunkenly in front of their children. The court was told she constantly denied her alcohol dependence and accused police of harassment and fabricating evidence against her.
Dame Janet said it was clear she was “out of touch with reality and capable of telling a pack of lies”.
Matters reached a head when she was seen staggering drunkenly in the street and her children found wandering unchecked.
At the Appeal Court, the mother’s lawyers argued that a month’s intensive treatment for her alcohol abuse had changed her. Attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings regularly, she was now alcohol-free and had severed her relationship with the children’s father.
However, dismissing her appeal, Dame Janet said time was of the essence for growing children, whose futures needed to be finalised as swiftly as possible.
“It is just too good to be true that a woman with the deep-seated shortcomings displayed by this mother could have been transformed in four weeks,” she concluded.
Camden Council, the court heard, has voluntarily agreed not to finalise the children’s placement with the gay couple pending the mother’s application for permission to appeal further to the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court.
The council’s cabinet member for children, Councillor Angela Mason, said: “We are satisfied that the court has made the right decision.
“Camden is a borough with a diverse population and we are pleased that our adoption placements reflect that. We pride ourselves on being a borough which values diversity and always tries to find the very best solutions for children in our care. The gay couple who have been approved to take over care from the mother went through a rigorous selection process and we are convinced they will provide a secure and loving home for the children.”
Additional reporting: Strand News