SUNDAY MIRROR 15/09/10
500 parents in legal action to win back 'stolen' children taken into care
(By Martyn Halle)
Hundreds of heartbroken parents who claim social services "stole" their children have launched a legal bid to win them back.
The 500 mums and dads say it is impossible to get justice in the UK and have turned to an international court.
Families argue they are the victims of social workers who are over-zealous after cases such as Victoria Climbié and Baby Peter and a process in family courts which is excessively secretive.
They also say that the courts rely too heavily on the opinions of experts or social workers and that it is wrong that there is no right of appeal. The UK now has 64,000 children in care...a 6pc rise since 2006.
If the Court of Human Rights in The Hague backs the new case, it could let parents bring proceedings against councils - and get their children back.
One dad told the Sunday Mirror last year he had lost his daughter to adoption days after her birth.
"Crystal" was taken because of an unproven allegation that Alan (not his real name) had harmed his son from a previous marriage.
Alan, 44, who is campaigning for a change in the law, found that over five years his local authority, Enfield in North London, had succeeded in all 43 cases where it wanted to take a child into care. He said: "It's hard to believe they right every time.
In my case there was no evidence our girl would be harmed by me or my wife. Yet she was 'snatched' without warning."
And another dad in Nottingham whose three boys were taken after a tip-off said he and his wife were never told the allegation against them. Sam Hallimond, of pressure group Freedom Advocacy and Law, organising the court action, said: "Families are fighting injustices, with children being taken on vague allegations."
Mr Hallimond, who had his daughter taken for adoption in Suffolk, added: "If the court agree our rights have been breached, we could bring prosecutions against councils and possibly get our children back."
Lib Dem MP John Hemming, backing the legal action, said: "We are challenging a system where simply believing a child is at risk can see them taken into care - or being adopted and lost for ever."
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