UK

Latvian child must be adopted in the UK, judge rules

Parent holding child's hand Image copyright Getty Images

A Latvian girl should be adopted in the UK, despite objections from her mother and the Latvian authorities, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

The seven-year-old was taken into care aged 21 months, after being found alone at her mother's home in London, in dirty conditions.

The girl's mother contested a family court decision that the child had been neglected and should be adopted.

But appeal court judges have now upheld the decision twice, it has emerged.

The mother, who moved to the UK in 2008, has been fighting for five years to try to get her daughter back and has considerable support in Latvia.

Both the president and justice minister have promised to help her continue her legal battle.

'Significant neglect'

The girl was found by a police officer in early 2010, alone in the family flat in south west London.

He told the court she was wearing a nappy that was falling off between her legs, that her clothes were wet and she was shivering.

He said there was a strong smell of urine and faeces.

The girl was taken into care the same day by the local authority, the London borough of Merton, and a family court judge later found she had been subjected to "significant neglect" and ordered that she should be adopted in the UK.

Despite the mother's objections the decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal in May 2013, but the Latvian authorities became concerned and tried to intervene in the case.

They said they were only contacted two-and-a-half years after the child was taken into care, even though they should have been alerted when the case started. A new set of hearings began, but these too have now been unsuccessful.

In the hearing, the mother argued the case should be transferred to Latvia, as both she and her daughter are Latvian citizens. She said: "If this case had been heard in another European jurisdiction, then a different solution would have been found."

She claimed other European countries have a greater understanding of familial ties, whereas in this country "too little weight is attached to the child's biological, national, ethnic and cultural inheritance".

However in a judgement published last week, presiding judge Sir James Munby dismissed the claim.

"The fact that the law in this country permits adoption in circumstances where it would not be permitted in many European countries is neither here nor there," he said.

'Shocked'

The mother, together with the Latvian authorities, say they will now approach the Supreme Court and if that fails would consider approaching the European Court.

She told the BBC she was "shocked" at the latest ruling and complained the judgment had not reflected the full picture of herself or her family.

Latvian MP Igor Pimenov, said he found it hard to understand how a country "with high moral standards" could act in this way.

He believes this is not a unique case and said he had been contacted by several other Latvian women in the UK whose children had been taken into care.

"I can see there is something behind it... but families have been ruined," he said.

Sir James noted in his judgment that "the number of care cases involving children from other European countries has risen sharply in recent years and significant numbers of care cases now involve such children".

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