A Council v M & Ors (Judgment 1: Fact-Finding)  EWHC 4241 (Fam)
Finding of fact hearing, exploitation of a child in order to cause her to become pregnant by artificial insemination in order that the mother could have another child.
Finding of fact hearing involving four children. The eldest (A) was 17 years old at the time of the application, and it was alleged that she had given birth to her child (D), as a result of artificial insemination imposed on her against her wishes by her mother.
The mother was described as a determined and forceful character. She had been married and had adopted A and B, the eldest two children, from abroad. She had then separated from her husband and he had returned to Ireland. The court found as a fact that the father had lost contact with the children as a result of the mother's hostility.
The mother then adopted a third child, C, from a different country as a sole carer. At that point, the judgment describes that the stresses on the family increased. C had had a difficult start and was a demanding child. Amongst the other allegations that A had made, she also said that her mother had been cruel towards C, expecting too much of her, and using unreasonable discipline.
The mother had then become determined to adopt a fourth child. However, her application was refused as a result of an anonymous objection. She remained determined to have another child, and it was alleged that she had asked A to embark on AI for her to have a child that she could then adopt. A was 14 at the time that the course of treatment had started and had become pregnant aged 16 years.
The offences against A were not discovered until after the birth of D when the hospital midwives had become so concerned that they excluded the mother from the ward. She was described as domineering, for example refusing to allow A to breastfeed in order to prevent an attachment forming.
A family acquaintance had visited A on the ward and she had told him her story. At that stage professionals were able to get involved.
The court found that (as summarised within the second judgment of the court, at para 11):
a. At the time that the local authority took protective measures in relation to C and B on 5 July 2011, they had suffered and were likely to suffer significant harm, in that the harm or likelihood of harm is attributable to care that they had or would be likely to receive was not what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give them.
b. Both girls were exposed to M' temperament and attitude, and to her controlling personality leading to distorted relationships within the family.
c. Both girls were raised in a home where the elder sister A was exploited by M to become pregnant to satisfy M's determination to have a fourth child.
d. B was co-opted into involvement in this plan and her subsequent denial included attempts to discredit A causing serious damage to her relationship with her older sister.
e. C had suffered physical abuse, inappropriate punishment, social isolation and oppressive control. As a result C had suffered emotional damage with lifelong implications shown by a needy and avoidant attachment pattern, and symptoms of Oppositional Defiance Disorder including distressed and challenging behaviour requiring therapy and skilled care to repair the damage. The harm to C went beyond the legacy left by her pre-adoption experiences.
f. B was also exposed to M's abusive care of C, isolating limitations upon her socialisation and deprivation of her relationships with her adopted father and wider family. As a result B suffered damage to her emotional development and loss of significant family relationships.
g. M had not accepted the significant findings against her in relation to the harm towards her children.
The mother was subsequently charged with five offences of child cruelty. The court adjourned considerations of outcome and welfare decisions to a later date.
Summary by Jacqui Thomas, barrister, 37 Park Square Chambers
A reporting restriction order was made on 17 July 2012
This judgment may be published in this form on the basis that the family members are not identified
Neutral Citation Number:  EWHC 4241 (Fam)
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE
Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
THE HONOURABLE MR JUSTICE PETER JACKSON
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A Council Applicant
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- and –
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B, C and D Respondents
(by their Children's Guardians)
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Ms Mary Lazarus for the Local Authority
Ms Eleanor Platt QC and Ms Carol McMillan for the Mother (M)
Ms Sally Bradley for the Father (F)
Ms Tina Cook QC and Mr Anthony Jerman for the eldest child (A)
Ms Maria Hancock for the second child (B)
Mr Martin Downs for the Children's Guardian for B and the third child (C)
Ms Anna McKenna / Ms Jessica Lee for the Children's Guardian for the fourth child (D)
The names of solicitors are omitted in the interests of confidentiality
Hearing dates: 20 February to 6 March 2012
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JUDGMENT 1 (fact-finding)
NOTE ON REPORTING RESTRICTIONS
This judgment is the first in a series of four. It was handed down to the parties on 8 March 2012 but was not made public to protect the children concerned and because of the pending criminal trial. It is now handed down publicly in an anonymised form, together with the second and third judgments, so that the matter can be reported, but without identifying the family. The fourth judgment, which will deal with the question of the legal status of the child C, will be published in due course.
Reporting restriction orders were made on 21 February 2012, 17 May 2102 and 17 July 2012. The last of these remains in force and prevents publication of
(a) the names and address of any of
2 the Children whose details are set out in the order;
3 the Parents, whose details are set out in the order;
(b) any picture being or including a picture of either the Children or the Parents;
(c) any other identifying details relating to the Children or the Parents, and in particular descriptions of them as being connected with any of the following geographical areas: [two towns]; [the county]; [the region of the country]; [foreign country X]; [foreign country Y].
IF, BUT ONLY IF, such publication is likely to lead to the Children or Parents being identified as being or having been:-
i. parties to proceedings in the Family Division of the High Court;
ii. in foster care, or provided with accommodation by a local authority;
iii. adopted from or having adopted children from X or Y;
iv. involved with artificial insemination;
v. involved in a dispute over the circumstances of conception of a child;
vi. concerned in criminal charges brought against M
The full text of the order is attached to Judgment 3 in this matter.
26 April 2013
Mr Justice Peter Jackson:
1. On 6 July 2011, A Council ("the local authority") applied for care orders in relation to four children:
A born in 1994, then aged 17
B born in 1995, then aged 16
C born in 2004, then aged 7
D born in 2011, then one week old
2. A and B are the adoptive children of M ("the mother") and F ("the father").
3. C is the adoptive child of M.
4. Until the beginning of the proceedings, the three children lived with the mother.
5. D is A's son.
6. On 5 July 2011, A and D left hospital and went to live in a mother and baby foster placement, where they remain.
7. At the same time, B and C were placed together in a foster placement. That broke down in September 2011, when B went to a teenage foster placement and C to a second foster placement.
8. In accordance with her wishes and those of the mother, B returned to live with the mother in December 2011.
9. A has now turned 18 and proceedings concerning her have ended. No orders are in place in relation to B, while C and D are subject to interim care orders.
10. The state can only interfere in family life if it is established that children are suffering or are likely to suffer significant harm attributable to unreasonable parenting. The local authority contends that this threshold has been crossed in relation to B, C and D in a number of respects arising from the mother's behaviour towards A, B and C.
11. This has been a fact-finding hearing to determine whether the local authority has made out its case. A further hearing, at which the children's future will be decided, is currently scheduled to take place in July 2012.
12. Where I describe events or make findings of fact, I apply the balance of probabilities, the burden of proof being on the party seeking the finding.
13. The hearing began on 20 February (reading day). On 21 February, I made a reporting restriction order and, exceptionally, an order excluding the press from attending the hearing. Evidence was taken between 22 February and 2 March, and submissions, prepared on 4 March, were delivered on 6 March. This judgment is delivered on 8 March.
14. I have read large portions of the extensive documentation and viewed three interviews conducted with A under the Achieving Best Evidence procedure, which run for 6½ hours in total.
15. Evidence was given over a period of eight days. During the first four days, the witnesses were:
A student midwife
A social worker
A police officer
A former friend of the mother
A family friend (Mr P)
His wife (not called)
The former family GP
A teenage pregnancy midwife
An obstetric registrar
A friend of the mother
A former neighbour
Another family friend
16. A then gave evidence for a day, followed by the mother, who gave evidence on three days.
17. Statements from the following witnesses were read:
A midwife care assistant
A computer expert
A former charge of the mother when she worked as a nanny
A former partner of the mother
A family friend
Two other friends of the mother
18. Counsel made comprehensive written and oral submissions. I am grateful to all concerned, but in particular to Ms Lazarus and her team for the efficient way in which the case has throughout been prepared and presented. I also acknowledge the generally sensitive but uncompromising way in which Ms Platt QC has represented the mother in difficult circumstances.
19. I shall set out the general background, and then describe and make findings about the four main issues:
(1) The father's exclusion
(2) The children's isolation
(3) Specific allegations of abuse
(4) A's pregnancy
20. For ease of reference, I exhibit a small number of significant documents in the Appendix at the end of the judgment.
21. The father, who is Irish, was born in 1964, and is now 48 years old. In the 1980s he was working in London, where he met the mother.
22. The mother is American. She too was born in 1964, and is now 47 years old. She came to England in 1984 and for a time worked as a nanny.
23. The parents met in 1989 and married in 1992. They wanted to have children, but the mother did not want to become pregnant because she is an insulin-dependent diabetic and, as she put it, she did not want to pass on her genes. They decided to adopt from abroad.
24. Influenced by humanitarian motives, they lawfully adopted two babies from country X. These children, A and B, were among the first children to have been brought to England from that country in this way.
25. A was born in early 1994 and was adopted from foster care in X at five months. She entered the United Kingdom in July 1994.
26. B was born in mid 1995 and was adopted from an orphanage in X at five months. She entered the United Kingdom in October 1995, and in the same month the family moved to live in Dublin. For at least a month at the beginning they lived with the father's parents at an address which remains the father's parents' home to this day.
27. In January 1997, the mother and father separated. A decree absolute of divorce was granted in England in April 2000.
28. In June 1997, the mother returned to England with A and B. They lived at various addresses in Essex until April 2005, when they moved to their current area. In February 2006, they moved to an address which continues to be the mother's home.
29. The father has remained in Dublin. He has since remarried and has two young children.
30. For the first three years after their separation, relations between the mother and father were reasonably amicable. There was weekly telephone contact. The father would send money for the children's maintenance and visited them two or three times a year, usually for their birthdays and at Christmas. On these occasions the mother allowed him to stay on the couch in her home, and the father's parents also visited at least once, with the mother's agreement. In March 1999, the mother and children visited Dublin for A's fifth birthday. This was the last occasion on which the girls saw their paternal grandparents.
31. It is common ground that the father's active involvement in the children's lives ended in early 2000. It was not until these proceedings began in 2011 that he has been able to re-establish contact to some extent. I shall describe the reason for his long absence later in this judgment: see ISSUE 1 below.
32. For the present, it is to be remarked that the father, whose evidence I accept in its entirety, makes no criticism of the mother's parenting of the two children while the family was together, or about the contact arrangements while they lasted. He does say that his experience of the mother is that she is particularly strong-willed and resistant to other points of view than her own.
33. In particular, the father noted the mother's decision to educate the children at home. He would have preferred the children to have attended school, but he did not make an issue of it, realising that the mother's view would inevitably prevail.
34. I also note the evidence of the mother's boyfriend between September 2000 and June/July 2004. He spent a great deal of time with the family, staying often. A and B were fond of him, and he speaks very positively of them. After the end of his relationship with the mother, he faded from their lives, but his father continued to keep in contact. Neither the boyfriend nor his father makes any criticism of the way in which the mother looked after the children.
35. There is indeed a body of evidence that speaks positively of the mother as an energetic and lively person who was deeply involved in her children's lives and very active in setting up specific networks involving people who had adopted or wanted to adopt from X, and people involved in home education. This view is echoed by a number of witnesses and referees.
36. I accept that the mother has many positive qualities, both as a person and as a parent. She is independent-minded and highly articulate. She loves the children and they undoubtedly love her. Everyone who knows A, B and C speaks extremely highly of them, and this must be to the mother's credit. I do not lose sight of this very important aspect of the children's situation when coming to consider the local authority's allegations. The question is whether it is the whole picture, as the mother contends. The local authority acknowledges the positive aspects, so far as they go. As the social worker, put it, "The mother's influence on the children has not been entirely bad or destructive: it is much, much more complex than that."
37. Remarkably, having described all her experiences, A was still able to say that "my mum has done as much as she could to give us a good and happy life."
38. I consider the children's complex social situation below under ISSUE 2.
39. For the mother, having two children was not enough. Neither she nor her boyfriend wanted to have children of their own, and in any event she had had an elective sterilisation in 2001. They discussed adopting from abroad, but he was not keen. This perhaps contributed to some extent to their separation, which occurred without undue animosity in June 2004.
40. By this time, it would appear that the mother was coping with the demands of bringing up and home educating A and B. However, the stresses on the family increased markedly, in my view, with the arrival of a third child. By 2004, it had become much harder to adopt from X and she therefore selected country Y, where adoption was less regulated.
41. C was born in Y in December 2004. She was adopted there by the mother in August 2005 and entered the United Kingdom on a United States passport in September 2005.
42. The adoption process in Y was difficult. The mother had travelled there with A (11) and B (10). On occasions they were left in the hotel to look after baby C, while the mother made forays to deal with the bureaucratic requirements.
43. The lawfulness of the mother's actions in relation to C's adoption has not been investigated at this hearing. Concern has been raised as to whether United Kingdom adoption requirements were circumvented. In November 2004, the mother had obtained a home study report containing significant inaccuracies from an American social worker based in Germany. However, C was not adopted under United States law and it is common ground that the adoption in Y is not recognised in England. In March 2006, C was registered as a British subject.
44. Following C's arrival, she had difficulty in settling and made demands on her mother and the older children. A, in particular, was heavily involved in her care. The mother was concerned about whether C was attaching to her, and twice in 2006 she consulted a community paediatrician for advice. She received reassurance and some suggestions, including advice (which she did not find of much value) that she might try being less directive with C. Given the degree of involvement of the older children, the paediatrician is said to have wondered who it was that C saw as her mother. It is likely that the bond between the mother and C was from the outset less secure than that with the older children, perhaps as a result of C's experiences in infancy.
45. In this context, it is significant that in March 2009 the mother and B went to Arizona for about 10 days, leaving C (4) in England in the care of A (just 15). No adult was even informed of this arrangement, let alone put in charge. In her evidence, the mother was slow to acknowledge the irresponsibility of such an abandonment. She appeared to think that A's agreement was an excuse: she had agreed to stay behind on the pretext that she would not enjoy the heat in Arizona, but in reality because the trip would otherwise have been unaffordable.
46. In January 2006, C started to attend a local toddler group, and went on to nursery, where she seems to have remained until about January 2009, doing well.
47. However, from 2006 onwards there were a number of referrals to social services and other expressions of concern about the mother's conduct. I will return to these below: see ISSUE 3.
48. By 2006, despite the difficulties with C, the mother had become intensely preoccupied with the need for another child, and in particular another girl. She decided to adopt again, this time from country Z. She again took steps to achieve this through the United States adoption process, and a further home study report was obtained from the same American social worker.
49. The mother told A and B what she was doing. They were fully aware of how important the adoption of a fourth child was to her.
50. However, in January 2007 an acquaintance of the mother wrote an anonymous letter to the local authority and to other official bodies, apparently including the American embassy and the embassy of country Z. The end result was that the American authorities notified the mother that she would not receive approval for a further adoption. The mother was distraught, and made her distress and feelings of betrayal evident to A and B.
51. There is an issue as to whether notification of refusal came in about October 2007 (as the local authority alleges) or mid-January 2008 (as the mother now contends). As to this, I note that the mother herself said in her first statement in these proceedings that she received the letter from the United States Embassy in October 2007. She now says that she challenged the refusal and that ultimate confirmation was not received until a phone call in January 2008. She says that she has destroyed the documents in relation to this.
52. I find that the mother's change of evidence about the date on which the notification of refusal was received is designed to locate it after a visit that she and A made to the GP on 9 January 2008, to which I will return. She may have made telephone calls to the United States authorities and to the adoption agency in America, but these are likely to have followed hard on the receipt of the refusal letter.
53. I find that the mother knew that the route to a further international adoption was effectively closed to her in around October 2007. This official signal that she was not approved to have a fourth child did nothing to deter her: on the contrary, I find that it increased her determination.
54. Before the adoption of C, the United States authorities had approved the mother as an adopter for two further children. That approval would have expired in November 2007.
55. It is agreed that a significant conversation took place between the mother and A very soon after the mother learned that she would not be able to adopt a fourth child.
56. The mother says that she formed the idea that she should attempt to become pregnant herself by means of artificial insemination (AI) and that she consulted A (13), who approved. Over the next two years she purchased six consignments of semen over the internet from Cryos International ("Cryos") for use on herself. A and B assisted her with the preparations.
57. A's account is that the mother asked her to become pregnant by AI, and that she agreed.
58. Both describe B as being aware of what had been decided.
59. I describe the events that followed below, under the heading ISSUE 4.
60. At all events, the mother and three children went for a holiday in San Francisco in February 2008.
61. In March 2009, the trip to Arizona, referred to above, took place.
62. Later in March 2009, the mother had to spend a month in hospital. I refer again to this below.
63. In early October 2010, A became pregnant at the age of 16½, and on Wednesday 29 June 2011, D was born.
64. As a result of observations made by the midwives, they made a referral to social services on the day of the birth, and in consequence the police became involved.
65. On Saturday 2 July, the mother was barred from the hospital because of concerns about her behaviour and the situation of A and the baby.
66. On Monday 4 July, while investigations were continuing, A was visited by Mr P, a family friend. In the course of a long conversation, she gave her account of what had happened. This led to all the children being placed in foster care on Tuesday 5 July and to the commencement of the proceedings on Wednesday 6 July.
67. There has been close liaison between social services and the police. A number of lines of enquiry have been pursued and a great deal of important background information has been gathered. A has taken part in three ABE interviews. B has been interviewed by the police at her request, and has also been questioned following allegations (which have not been pursued in these proceedings) that were made by C to her foster carer. The mother has been arrested and interviewed under caution four times. On the first occasion, which took place before the outcome of many of the police enquiries, she answered questions. On the second occasion she answered some questions only, while on the other occasions she refused to answer any questions.
68. Significant interim hearings took place before Macur J on 18 August (when she saw B before making interim care orders) and Charles J on 29/30 November (when he discharged the interim care order in B's case).
69. On 1 February 2012, DNA test results showed that D's conception was achieved by the use of anonymous donor semen, sent from Denmark by Cryos.
70. This hearing began on 20 February 2012.
71. I now turn to the issues.
ISSUE 1: THE FATHER'S EXCLUSION
72. As has already described, the father's contact broke down at the beginning of 2000. On the surface, there were two reasons for this. The mother had made a will in which she had appointed a friend of hers to be A and B's guardian in the event of her death, to the exclusion of the father. She asked the father to give his written agreement and, when he quite reasonably refused, took strong offence. Secondly, the father did not attend A's 6th birthday in 2000, which disappointed A and angered the mother.
73. The mother's response was to cut off all contact between the father and A and B. She also changed the children's surname by deed poll from the father's name to hers. The father's moderate and conciliatory efforts to persuade her to allow him to see the girls were unavailing. She sent back or tore up his letters and cards, showing the girls that she was doing so.
74. Eventually, in desperation, the father came over unannounced to try to see A on her 10th birthday in 2004. The mother was in the front garden. The father walked up the garden path, and she ran inside, shutting the door on him. He shouted to the children through the letterbox, but only caught a glimpse of B on the stairs.
75. The mother's reaction to this small challenge to her hegemony was immediate. Within a month, she had moved with the children to a concealed address, causing complete disruption to the children's lives and her own.
76. In June 2004, she wrote to the father, at his parents' address. She said amongst other things that the children did not want to see him and that if he managed to send any mail it would be thrown away. She herself would not spend any time in his presence as she would only physically attack him. She said that the girls would not recognise him and that he was now "fat, bald and old" and ended "You are no longer a part of our lives in any way." The letter is shocking, not only for its content but also for its considered and contemptuous tone. I exhibit this letter as Document 1.
77. In the face of such hostility, the father retired, defeated. He was, until the end of last year, totally excluded from his daughters' lives for 11 years and it had been 7 years since he even knew where they lived.
78. The mother does not deny that she took these measures, but says that she did it to protect the children. She says that she wanted them to have contact with the father and was disappointed at his actions. I do not accept this. I find that it suited her to become the children's only parent.
79. In 2011, when interviewed by the police, the mother claimed not to know how to contact the father. This was untrue, as she had an address for his parents, but it caused the local authority to have to hire enquiry agents to track him down.
80. The mother claims that she was frightened by the father's behaviour in March 2004, and that the girls were too. I think that it would be more accurate to say that she was momentarily shocked by his rebellion, and that she made sure that the girls did what she wanted. I do not accept that she was seriously frightened: her true attitude appears from her letter.
81. In her evidence, the mother accepted that A was distressed at the loss of her father, something A has said herself. The mother even arranged for A to attend counselling in 2000 and again in 2004 to help her get over it. She will not have told the counsellors that both A and her father were longing to see each other, and that it was she who was preventing it from happening.
82. In contrast, the mother's evidence was that the loss of contact was not an issue for B, as if this were an explanation.
83. The mother did not give a thought to informing the father of A's pregnancy.
84. I am satisfied that the mother deliberately excluded the father from the children's lives because he had crossed her and because he represented an alternative influence to her own. It would be hard to find a more ruthless example of parental alienation.
85. The result is that A and B were robbed of their right to know the father and his family during their childhoods. It is very much to be hoped that one of the consequences of the recent events will be that this can now be made good. The father had a great deal to offer the girls, and I think it likely that he still has.
ISSUE 2: THE CHILDREN'S ISOLATION
86. The first relevant matter is the unusual predominance of the mother in the children's lives.
87. The mother has an exceptionally forceful personality. She is capable of being charming and good company, particularly if it is on her own terms. She is also capable of being, as the local authority puts it, directive, critical, rigid, suspicious and obsessive. For the children, who love her deeply, the threat of her disapproval is always in the air.
88. The children have reacted in different ways. A appears to have adopted a strategy of submissiveness. Her father, who re-established contact with her recently, describes her as timid and notes that she speaks with a very, very quiet voice. He says that she spoke more loudly and confidently when she was aged 6. Mr P, the family friend to whom A eventually spoke, relates that her voice is so exceedingly quiet that he and his wife wondered at first whether she had some vocal disability. As he came to know the mother he found that, when talking to her, "you had to fight your corner". She would talk at A, and it was easier for A to be quiet than to talk.
89. As a small example of A's situation, there was a trivial incident in 2009 when the family was on an outing. A accidentally pushed C's buggy into someone, who started shouting and swearing at her. The mother then started shouted and swearing at this person. She then rebuked A for failing to stand up for herself and sulked for several days to make her feel the weight of her disapproval. When one considers the origin of A's timidity, the incident is a sad one. The mother's explanation – that she was upset about the incident and was waiting for A to talk to her about it – shows the reversal of the parent-child relationship that by then existed.
90. B's case is different. She is feistier than A and appears to have functioned by being compliant without being submissive.
91. C, as a result of her early upbringing, was not a compliant baby or toddler, which led to considerable difficulties in her relationship with the mother.
92. The next relevant matter is the total absence for all the children of any other family members. They have, of course, no relationship with their birth families. It is therefore all the more unfortunate that they have had no meaningful relationships with any members of their adoptive family. It has already been seen how they were deprived of the father's contrasting parenting style, which could have provided some balance to the mother's. They have also lost touch with their paternal grandparents and do not yet know the father's new wife and children.
93. The mother's relationship with her own family in America is very poor, and the children's relationship with their maternal grandparents non-existent (something about which the 2004 home study report is misleading). Their only other contact with their maternal family consisted of about two meetings with the mother's sister, but none since 2008, when the mother fell out with her. The mother does not get on with her own brother, and the children do not know him.
94. The net effect has been that, until the father came back onto the scene, the children's family has consisted of their mother and each other. It would be expected that as adopted children they might have gained a wider family, but they have been deprived of all the benefits that might have flowed from that.
95. The children's wider social life has followed a similar pattern. At any one time, they have been provided with influences that have been closely controlled by the mother. Specific connections with members of groups which the mother has joined or started have allowed them to have some exposure to people outside the family, but these connections have come and gone, depending on the state of the mother's relationship with the adults involved. They have depended heavily on the internet as a window on to the world.
96. A was able to go out to the library, where she made a couple of brief acquaintanceships, but the mother was forced to concede that A does not have any friends whatever of her own age.
97. Mr P, the family friend to whom A spoke is an experienced secondary school teacher. His description of visiting the family is interesting. The curtains were always drawn and the home reminded him of a fortress. It was quite unnerving to go there but, once inside, it was a nice, orderly, friendly place.
98. The family's isolation can also be seen from the events of March/April 2009. The mother became extremely ill with pelvic inflammatory disease and had to go to hospital, leaving the children at home. She remained in hospital for a month. At the outset, her GP made a referral to social services out of concern for the children's situation. The mother was resistant to social workers seeing the children, who were then 15, 13 and 4. I do not accept that she was at that stage too ill to express a view: in any event, the view she expressed is consistent with her general antipathy to social services. At all events, a social worker did visit and managed to speak to the children on the doorstep. Eventually Mr P arranged a roster of adults, with himself and his wife to the fore, to support the children until the mother was discharged from hospital. In effect, C was being looked after by A and B for that month. It would not be fair to criticise the mother for matters that took place after she became too ill to direct events, but the exposed situation of the children in her absence was striking.
99. Given the mother's parenting style, it is no surprise that she should have decided to educate the children at home, regardless of the father's views. C did attend nursery and preschool, but did not go on to school in 2009. A and B are intelligent girls who are likely to be capable of above average educational achievements. This hearing has not been concerned with the specifics of the mother's educational programme for them, but there are signs that she has been quite successful as a home educator at primary age. However, the older girls have not had a structured secondary education, and as yet they have no formal qualifications, although B has obtained a good report from the vocational course that she is currently taking.
100. Home education, skilfully delivered, can be beneficial for some children. It is not clear that it has been beneficial for these particular children, and it contributed to them becoming socially isolated. This may be more difficult for A to overcome than B.
101. The mother contends that the local authority approved her home education programme in 2010 and 2011. Examination of the education records shows that in 2007 an education welfare officer asked to visit to discuss the children's education. The mother's reply was that "neither my children nor myself will accept home visits or any attempt at monitoring". The local authority then wrote an emollient letter asking her to suggest ways in which it could be satisfied that the children were being satisfactorily educated. She replied asking for all communication to be by email. The local authority did reply – after a delay of 13 months. The mother's response was to say that she would send a brief report – in 13 months' time. This she did, sending a single page at the end of 2009. The local authority then approved her provision, an approval extended without more ado in 2011.
102. The local authority points out that its powers under the Education Act 1996 are limited. It can only act if it appears that children are not receiving suitable education. In this case, it is nonetheless of note that approval to home education was given without anyone ever setting eyes on the children. That was as the mother wished, and the resulting "approval" does not give any clue to the quality of the education, or alter the fact that the children were not being exposed to the full range of experiences, good and bad, that comes with school attendance.
103. It should be said that in this context I am only concerned at the impact of home education upon the social situation. A, for one, has the ability to express herself orally and in writing in a manner of which any parent or teacher would be proud. B also made a very good impression during the course of a quite lengthy conversation with Macur J. Both young women are interested in education and have the ability to do well.
ISSUE 3: SPECIFIC ALLEGATIONS OF ABUSE
104. With one exception, these relate to the period after C joined the family.
105. A remembers B, aged about four, being punished by being shut out in the garden after dark and wetting herself before she was let back in. The mother says that she does not remember such an event but reluctantly accepts that she may have punished B by putting her in the garden, though not at night. I find that on the occasion described she did shut B out as a punishment, and that it was after dark. I prefer A's account; even though she would only have been about five at the time, the details suggest a memory of a real event.
106. In relation to C, A has described the following behaviour by the mother:
• regular smacking
• pouring milk over C when she failed to say 'ta' at the age of 18 months, followed by shutting her in her bedroom for about two hours
• putting C in the kitchen alone and forbidding the other children to talk to her while she was being potty-trained, and pouring water from a jug over her when she wet herself
• tying her to a chair when she would not sit still
• putting duct tape over her mouth for a few minutes for answering back
• dropping her on the floor, or pushing her to the floor
• calling her abusive names such as "son of a bitch", "manipulative bitch", "piece of shit" and "stupid fucking idiot"
The common theme is the use of aggressive and highly inappropriate methods to secure compliance by C.
107. The mother denies this. She accepts that she
• sometimes smacked C while angry, but not excessively
• shut her in her bedroom, but not for more than about half an hour
• spent several hours per day in the kitchen with C over the course of a week in order to potty-train her, and asked the other children not to come in during this time. She ran the tap strongly in order to encourage C, but did not pour water over her.
• swore in the presence of the children when angry, but did not swear at C
• sometimes pushed C away from her, but would not drop her on the floor
108. She denies tying C to a chair or putting duct tape over her mouth.
109. In deciding where the truth lies, the court has the benefit of a body of evidence from neighbours of the family, and from others.
110. The home occupied by the family from February 2006, is a terraced house. The neighbour on one side is a teacher, and on the other side lived a GP and her young children, until they left in February 2009. I find that the mother pointedly kept both neighbours at a distance, ignoring the GP's welcome and requiring the teacher to make an appointment in writing before coming into the family's garden to cut some ivy. Both neighbours felt that the family was strange. Curtains were almost always kept drawn, and the children were not much seen.
111. In August 2006, the GP contacted social services, expressing concern about the isolation of the children and aspects of the mother's treatment of them. She spoke of C being left to cry for long periods, on one occasion (which she described convincingly in evidence) for as long as two hours. On several occasions she heard the mother shouting harshly at C at mealtimes, and swearing at her. C was sometimes seen peeping out from behind closed curtains in daytime.
112. The teacher gave evidence of feeling worried by hearing the mother shouting at C for 15 or 20 minutes.
113. Social services investigated the GP's referral, and saw the three children, who seemed well. The mother was on this occasion reasonably co-operative. The health visitor described the mother as being very demanding but expressed no concerns about the care of the children. In August 2006, the case was closed.
114. In January 2007, social services were again involved following receipt of the anonymous letter. The social worker investigated. She saw the children, who looked clean and well. It was concluded that there were no immediate child protection concerns, but that further investigation was needed. Reporting to her manager, she wrote "M's style is very directive and resistant to anyone becoming involved in her family. She appears to be doing things secretively for her own gain. My impression is that the adoption of these children satisfies an unmet emotional need for herself. I would tend to conclude that although there is so much we don't know we don't really have any evidence of significant harm in the short term with what we know now."
115. The case was closed, but upon receipt of the social worker's report, the mother wrote a sabre-rattling response, saying that she was taking legal advice before deciding what action she would take.
116. It is unfortunate that the investigation in 2007 did not pick up the fact that the GP had made a complaint in 2006.
117. In August 2008, the GP made another referral to social services, feeling that the sounds of verbal abuse were becoming more frequent. On this occasion, social services spoke to the mother on the telephone. She offered to let social workers visit, but the offer was not taken up and again the case was closed.
118. I find that between 2006 and 2008 the mother succeeded in keeping social services at arms' length so that their investigations were essentially superficial. Concerns were seen off by a parent who was recognised to be domineering. The children were never heard.
119. I accept A's account of occasions on which the mother mistreated C. I accept the GP's evidence, which corroborates it. No physical injury was caused to C, but as a very small child she was made to suffer for falling short of her mother's requirements.
120. I find that in a number of respects the mother has exposed A and B to inappropriate information about her own sexual activities.
121. In the first place, for about a year the mother and her boyfriend set up and ran an online business to earn money by sending knickers worn by the mother to men. The business did not thrive, but B and A, who were eight or nine years old, knew about it.
122. Next, in 2005, the mother decided that she wanted to meet men for sex before adopting a third child. Her chosen method was to use internet websites on which naked pictures are posted by participants. Instead of approaching this discreetly, she told A and B (then aged between 11 and 9) what she was doing. She even got them to take a naked photograph of her for use on the website, and in her description of herself she included a reference to the fact that she had two adopted X daughters. She discussed the merits of various male candidates with the girls and on two occasions they came to the house overnight.
123. I accept the evidence of a friend that on one occasion she saw the home page of a sex website on the mother's computer in the living room, and on another a photograph of one of her male contacts, posing naked. The mother was unconcerned at the children seeing this.
124. The mother accepts that some but not all of these events happened. I reject such denials as she makes. She shows no real sign of understanding the inappropriateness of her behaviour.
ISSUE 4: A'S PREGNANCY
125. The mother and A have given inconsistent accounts of how D was conceived.
126. I unhesitatingly prefer A's account. I am sure that she has told the truth. Her account during her ABE interviews and in court has been clear, detailed, credible and consistent. She has described her situation movingly and self-critically, while maintaining an extraordinarily charitable and loving judgement on her mother's actions. Her explanation of events is consistent with and supported by a mass of independent evidence.
127. There is literally no credible evidence to set against A's account, despite an abiding sense of disbelief that a parent could behave in such a wicked and selfish way towards a vulnerable child. The mother's own account of events, both to the police and to this court, is inconsistent and unreliable. Her story has changed as new information has emerged following police investigations and court directions. While each new piece of information has corroborated A's account, it has presented a further problem for the mother. She was a highly unsatisfactory witness, resorting to any available lie or invention. Faced with incontrovertible independent evidence, she was frequently reduced to asserting that documents that said one thing meant the opposite.
128. Most seriously, while protesting her devotion to A, she has tried to defend herself by suggesting that A is an established liar, is unable to differentiate fantasy from reality, has a poor memory, and has invented her account as a result of mental illness, variously described as depression, potential bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. The mother has also referred to isolated occasions on which A has told B that she felt like harming the mother or C.
129. It is true that when she was six years old, in order to get attention, A said that she had hurt her head in a fall. This led to extensive medical investigations, which were of course negative. She felt guilty about this and told her mother about it four years later. I accept A's explanation that she lied from insecurity and because she felt that she was receiving less attention than B. It was a childish lie that does not affect A's credibility but the mother has seized upon it. Moreover, she has encouraged B to focus on it, and B was quick to tell the police about A's lie when she was interviewed by them.
130. There is no foundation for the suggestion that A is unable to differentiate fantasy from reality. The mother has produced examples of A's creative writing, which is no more than that.
131. Nor is there any evidence that A's mental health is of any relevance to her allegations. She does not suffer from mental illness as suggested by the mother. She is currently, and quite appropriately, experiencing feelings of depression in response to her situation, for which she is receiving treatment and support. It is again notable that B was anxious to inform the police that A had had counselling as a child, as if this affected her credibility.
132. Likewise, any feelings of anger that A has felt towards the mother or C are in every way understandable, and are of no relevance to an assessment of her reliability.
133. The mother has also suggested that A has made up her account because she was placed under pressure by the hospital staff, or by social services, or by Mr P. A accepts that she was afraid of losing her baby, but convincingly says that this did not cause her to lie.
134. The mother has also accused A of lying to her about the circumstances of the conception and of falsifying documents.
135. I take the gravest view of these attacks on A's integrity. The mother has done all she could to discredit A in order to save herself. When she embarked on this course, she was not to know that her own position would be so comprehensively exposed.
136. I find that A became pregnant at the mother's request, using donor sperm bought by the mother, with the purpose of providing a fourth child for the mother to bring up as her own. This AI programme was planned when A was 13, began when she was 14, and ended when she became pregnant with D at the age of 16.
137. I find that B was aware of the plan, and of the way in which it was being carried out, and of how it was progressing.
138. The mother resorted to the AI programme because she was determined to have a fourth child, and because there was no other way of achieving this. As A put it in evidence, "My mum is a very determined person and she does her best not to let anything get in her way if she wants it."
139. A did not want to take part in the programme, but she allowed her body to be used by her mother because she loves her. She said that as time went on she used to feel very angry with her mother but "I wasn't brave enough to tell her I didn't want to do it any more. I didn't want a baby, my mum wanted a baby. I only wanted a baby when I gave birth to D."
140. The programme involved A having to inseminate herself at seven points in time: (1) sometime in 2008, (2) October 2008, (3) July 2009, (4) October 2009, (5) December 2009, (6) July 2010, and (7) September 2010. She did this alone in her bedroom, using syringes of semen and douches prepared by the mother. The first occasion of insemination involved sperm provided by a donor who came to the house. The others involved sperm purchased from Cryos.
141. The mother purchased ovulation testing equipment and progesterone suppositories, which A used to establish her fertile period and to enhance her chances of conception.
142. The mother was determined that the child should, if possible, be a girl. She persuaded A to undertake a number of practices designed to influence the gender of the child. A prepared for insemination by using four or five syringes of acid douches containing vinegar or lemon and lime juice. On one occasion, at the mother's instigation, A inserted a tampon soaked in lime following insemination. This was so painful that the mother agreed that she need not do it again. A was also required to follow a diet of dairy and alkaline foods in an attempt to maximise the chances of conceiving a girl. The mother also gave her tracks to listen to on her MP3 player which contained subliminal messaging saying "I am going to conceive a girl".
143. A's participation in the programme caused her continuous anxiety. The physical steps that the mother asked her to take were degrading, humiliating and, on occasions, painful.
144. I will describe events as I find them to have occurred.
145. A has never had sexual intercourse, nor has she told the mother that she has.
Conversation in October 2007
146. The plan for A's insemination came into the mother's mind shortly after the failure of the plan to adopt from country Z. A's account, given to Mr P on 4 July 2011 and in ABE interview on 20 July 2011, is that the mother, who was very distressed, asked her to become pregnant to provide her with a fourth child:
"... she said to me "A, there's only one way I can ... do this, how C will get her sister, and this [injustice] can be corrected .... So she said to me ... "You could get pregnant".
[How did that make you feel?]
... I was shocked, pretty shocked at first. And then I suddenly thought ... "maybe ... if I do this then everything will be over. Everything can get back to, mum will be happy like she was before ...C. ... Maybe if I can, she can have her family, she can go back to being that person". And I also thought from a selfish point of view, "If I do this ... maybe she will love me more."
147. Giving evidence, she said that it was quite late at night and there was no one else in the room. She was aged 13.
"Mum said to me: "A, the only way I can have a fourth child is for you to get pregnant." She told me that if I didn't want to, to tell her, but that it wasn't right that our family shouldn't be complete. "It's the only way". I said that there was a first time for everything. I used those very words. She held my hand. She seemed upset, but she smiled and seemed calmer than earlier. I was shocked but I don't think that I showed it. I felt better after that. In the years that followed it was always in my mind. I was always worried I wouldn't become pregnant, how long it would go on for and if it would ever end. I was relieved and happy when I became pregnant, but scared that I would miscarry. Feelings of gratitude for my adoption influenced how I behaved."
148. The mother's account of this conversation was given for the first time in oral evidence.
"I said to A: "What do you think about me trying to have a baby, do you think it's really stupid?" She looked surprised and said that she thought that I didn't want to have children. I said I had been looking into it and would look into adopting domestically in the US. I asked A if she thought I was completely insane. She said "There's a first time for everything". I didn't ask her to get pregnant. I asked her what her thoughts were on me getting pregnant. It wasn't her, it was me, but I appreciate that for her she had to feel like she was going through it as well. It was a very emotional, difficult time for me."
149. When the mother was asked about this in her first police interview on 5 July 2011, she said this, referring to the delivery of sperm for AI:
Q. Were any of your daughters aware?
A. B and A yes. C no.
Q. How did they become aware?
A. Because I told them.
Q. How did they react when you told them?
A. No particular anything.
Q. What about A in particular?
A. Nothing particular springs to mind, let's put it that way.
150. In the mother's second interview on 12 September 2011, the following was said:
Q. Tell me about how it made you feel when you couldn't adopt a fourth child.
A. No comment.
Q. How did you react?
A. No comment.
Q. What did you say to your daughters about it?
A. That I was sad
Q. What feelings did you specifically discuss with A?
A. I didn't specifically discuss something with A and not [B]
Q. What did you say to them about your feelings?
A. That I was sad.
Q. ... Is that the only thing that you said?
A. That is as much as I'm going to say about that.
Q. And what did you ask A to do after you found out that you couldn't adopt the fourth child?
A. I didn't ask her to do anything, no comment.
151. The mother has filed numerous statements in these proceedings, but gives no other account of this conversation, which would on any view have been memorable.
152. I prefer A's account of the conversation.
Visits to GP in early 2008
153. A had for some time been uncertain about her gender identity. On 9 January and 11 February 2008, she and the mother visited the GP who referred A for counselling. She attended two sessions with a psychotherapist in May and June 2008 before bringing the process to an end herself.
154. A says, and I accept, that the AI plan had been discussed before the visits to the GP. She further says that she already had issues about her gender but that these became much stronger because she did not want to put her body through being pregnant. She ended the counselling because she could not tell the whole truth to the counsellor. She cannot remember whether any active steps towards AI had been taken by that time.
155. I find that the mother pressed ahead with her plans regardless of the psychological implications for A.
Donor visits home in 2008
156. The mother accepts she investigated the availability of donor sperm (for herself) on the internet and that she had a number of conversations with men who were willing to donate sperm altruistically or at a price. She says that she did not pursue this further and that nobody visited the house for this purpose.
157. A says that on one occasion a donor came to the house. Her mother wanted to portray herself as having only one child and therefore removed photographs of A and B and took their names off the bedroom door. B and C went out and A remained in her room. The donor ejaculated in the bathroom. Subsequently, but after the time when the sperm would have been live, it was used as "a trial run".
158. A's account of this visit is detailed and clear, and I accept it.
Orders from Cryos
159. The mother placed six orders for semen which was contained in straws and packed in special containers or in dry ice. The cost depended on the motility (level of activity) of the sperm and the number of straws ordered. In general, for financial reasons, the mother ordered a limited number of straws of low motility.
No. of straws
Cost in euros
160. It is relevant to note that on only one occasion (23.7.09) did the mother order the quantity and motility recommended by Cryos for achieving a pregnancy.
161. It is also relevant that the mother's total household income was in the region of £260 per week. Over the period of two years, her expenditure on donor sperm was an average of £25 per week.
Pregnancy test at GP, 14 January 2009
162. On 14 January 2009, the mother and A visited the GP again. They said that A's last menstrual period had been in October 2008 and that she had had a bleed in early December. A told the doctor a story about meeting a boy at a youth club and of having woken up lying on a couch, not remembering what had happened. The mother said that she had been horrified when A had told her. The GP suggested that A avoid the youth club. She thought it unlikely that A was pregnant, but carried out a pregnancy test, which turned out to be negative.
163. A says that she had had a heavy bleed in December, and thinks that she had probably been pregnant. She had had symptoms of nausea and abdominal pains. She told the mother, who was bitterly disappointed and insisted that they visit the doctor to check whether she might still be pregnant, even though A did not think that she was. The story about the youth club was invented between herself and the mother.
164. The mother says that this episode began as a result of A thinking that she had become pregnant as a result of handling the straws in preparation for the mother to use them herself. She, the mother, did not believe that A was pregnant, but A wanted reassurance. She asked A to invent the story of the youth club because she felt that the doctor would view her own AI attempts with suspicion.
165. I accept A's account of the reasons for this visit. It is likely that she had briefly become pregnant at the age of just 14.
166. The episode is of further significance. On the mother's own admission, it is an instance on which she and A knowingly lied to a professional about the circumstances surrounding a pregnancy, a pattern repeated in 2011. It is also noteworthy that the mother decided that it was better to present A to her doctor as being sexually active at the age of 14 than to disclose the use of AI in the home.
Trip to Phoenix, March 2009
167. I have already referred to this occasion, when the mother and B travelled to Arizona. The mother's evidence about this trip was unsatisfactory. At first she said that it was simply for a holiday, though she was unable to explain why she had chosen Phoenix. She then explained that, having arrived, she had got into a conversation about adoption with a woman in a shopping mall, which had led to further enquiries and meetings.
168. This aspect of the mother's quest for a fourth child was not explored in any detail, but I was left with the strong impression that she became deeply involved in attempting to find a child in the United States, and that this was probably one reason for the visit to Phoenix. It is likely that the mother has a great deal more information about this than she has so far revealed. This view is supported by her account of her first conversation with A about AI, and by the contents of the "Hello All" letter referred to below.
Mother's Day card
169. On 22 March 2009, A made a card for her mother. I attach it as Document 2. It reads:
Happy Mother's Day List
(The things I cannot give you but would if I could).
[Photographs of the mother's favourite singers and the Starship Enterprise]
And the one thing that I can.
[Photograph of a positive pregnancy test]
170. The mother's explanation for this remarkable Mother's Day card is that after a time she became so despondent at her own repeated failure to conceive that she used to get A to report on the pregnancy tests for her. She says that A was saying that she wanted to be able to show her a positive result.
171. I reject the suggestion that any pregnancy tests were carried out by the mother, still less that A was involved. The card is evidence of the lengths to which A was prepared to go to make her happy.
172. At almost exactly this time, the mother became seriously ill and was admitted to hospital.
Cryos Doctor's approval July 2009
173. On the basis of the evidence that I have heard, there were no effective checks on a person's ability to obtain sperm from Cryos. No meaningful medical involvement is demanded. On the occasion of the first consignment, which was ordered via New York, nothing at all was required of the mother, apart from payment. However, when ordering the second consignment via Denmark in July 2009, she was required to produce a document entitled "Delivery authorisation". This essentially meaningless document purports to record the authority of a physician (or person authorised to perform therapeutic treatment with donor semen) for the delivery of semen to the recipient.
174. On 27 July 2009, the mother sent an e-mail attaching a completed version of this form, which she described as having being completed by her "GP (family doctor)" to Cryos. The form named her as the recipient, while a name and practice address were given for a doctor. A signature, licence number and doctor's stamp appear at the foot.
175. I exhibit these documents as Document 3. They were recovered from Cryos by the police in late December 2011/early January 2012.
176. The mother's account is that she did not want to tell her GP about her attempts to get pregnant by AI. In 2008, through C's nursery, she chanced to meet a local au pair. Later, when attending a play date, she told this person about her attempts to become pregnant and the au pair said that she was a doctor of genito-urinary medicine from Latvia. The mother said she needed a signature, and the au pair agreed to sign. The mother says that she contacted Cryos to ask whether the authorisation needed to be from her own doctor, and was told that it did not.
177. The mother was forced to concede in evidence that even on her own account she sent Cryos a document that she knew to be fraudulent as it bore a stamp purporting to show the Latvian person as practising from a local surgery.
178. A says that she and the mother forged this document together. There is no doctor. The signature is the mother's (she saw her sign) and the stamp is one that the mother ordered on the internet and later threw away.
179. Enquiries have established that no doctor with the name given by the mother has ever practised at that surgery, that there is no doctor practising under the licence number given, and that the telephone and fax number for the surgery are incorrect.
180. I accept A's evidence. The mother's account is preposterous. The doctor is an invention of the mother. The mother forged the document and signed and stamped it herself.
181. On 23 November 2011, the mother made strenuous efforts to prevent documentation of this kind being released by Cryos. She wrote, informing them that various UK official departments were seeking information about her orders, and stating that she opposed the release of any information at all, including the fact that she had written that letter and a sequence of e-mails on the subject. I exhibit the letter and Cryos's reply as Document 4.
182. The forged document is another striking instance of the mother's dishonesty and the lengths to which she would go, directly involving A, to achieve her purposes.
183. The second consignment of semen duly arrived and was used to inseminate A.
184. Every time that a test was negative, the mother exposed A and B to her feelings of extreme disappointment. At no stage did she reflect on the effect on her three children's feelings of such obvious demonstrations that they alone were insufficient to meet her emotional needs.
Visit to the Z Clinic 1 October 2009
185. The Z Clinic is a private gynaecology and fertility centre.
186. On 28 November 2011, the day before a High Court hearing, A told her legal team that she remembered visiting this clinic with her mother in 2009 or 2010. She remembered that they had used false names: in her case SD (S is her middle name), and in her mother's case KD. She was given a pregnancy test, which was negative.
187. The other parties were informed later that day, and the court was informed on the following day.
188. Enquiries were made of the clinic. It confirmed that there had been such a visit on 1 October 2009 by SD and KD. They provided a copy of the registration form, their notes, and the pathology report for a negative test.
189. I exhibit these documents as Document 5.
190. A says that this visit was made in order to discover whether she was pregnant after the previous attempt at AI. She did not think that she was, but her mother insisted. The mother did not want to go to the GP, and they gave false names so as not to be identified. She filled in the patient details (which include her correct date of birth and the mother's mobile telephone number), while the mother added a note that the results were to be collected in person by her.
191. The mother's account is that she did not visit the clinic in October 2009, but did visit in January 2010, taking A with her, for a pregnancy test for herself, on which occasion she used her own name.
192. The clinic has confirmed that it has no record of any visit at any time by the mother under her own name.
193. The mother has no explanation to give for the visit on 1 October 2009. She was reduced to speculating that A might have gone secretly, accompanied by another adult. Asked who that might have been, she suggested Mr P
194. I accept A's evidence about this visit, which is consistent with all other information. The note on the form is recognisably in the mother's handwriting and it would make no sense for the mother's mobile telephone number to be given if she were not involved.
195. Moving ahead, at 19.46 on 29 November 2011 (between the two days of the hearing before Charles J), an e-mail was sent from a person naming herself as Deborah Hughes to the Z Clinic. It very much follows the form of the letter sent by the mother to Cryos six days earlier. The writer, who I am sure was the mother, said that a professional body was trying to access details. She asked about their policy on confidentiality and whether they could refuse to disclose any details. I exhibit this email as Document 6.
196. Enquiries of the X Clinic reveal that they have never treated a "Deb" or "Deborah Hughes".
197. The mother's evidence is that at the hearing in November she was preoccupied with securing B's return and that she did not take in any discussion about the Z Clinic. She explained that much of what is said in court is, for her, "waffle". I am sure that she did take in the discussion about the Z Clinic, and that it will have caused her alarm.
198. Returning to 2009, the mother changed her GP practice in June 2009 for reasons which may well be related to this case.
199. Two further treatments were inflicted upon A in October and December 2009, but she did not conceive.
Affirmations document 13 July 2010
200. The mother had a habit of writing what has been called "affirmations" documents. One of these was recovered from her computer by the police. Analysis shows that it was not changed after 13 July 2010, although it was subsequently copied and deleted. It was therefore last amended about 10 days before the fifth Cryos order.
201. The purpose of the document is apparently to secure good outcomes by positive thinking. I exhibit it as Document 7. It is striking for what it says and for what it does not say.
202. In the first place, it reflects the mother's markedly self-centred nature.
203. Next, although the mother describes herself in every complimentary way, she makes no reference to her own fertility. On the contrary, she writes:
"We bring Kelia into the world and into our lives with love and happiness and everything goes well for A's pregnancy and Kelia's conception and birth. Kelia is conceived in July 2010 and is born on 1 April 2011. Kelia is healthy and strong and happy when she arrives and is an easy baby to care for.
I desire to win the Thunderball jackpot of £500,000 and for A to conceive and carry Kelia to term for birth in April.
204. Faced with this document in evidence, the mother accepted that she wrote it, but maintained that it has been altered, with references to A replacing references to herself in the above extracts. She said that A must have changed the document as a way of pleasing her, even at a time before she became pregnant.
205. A says that she first saw this document during her second ABE interview on 27 September 2011 and that she has never changed it. She freely admits knowing where the mother kept such documents and also that she knew the mother's computer password.
206. I accept A's evidence. The mother's explanation is not worthy of serious consideration. The whole document points to her as the author; the changes that she suggests do not fit with its sense or overall style. The document is clear evidence in the mother's own words of her plan that A should become pregnant.
207. The female name Kelia was a name that had been chosen by the mother for the fourth child that she had hoped to adopt from country Z.
A becomes pregnant October 2010
208. As a result of the sixth Cryos order on 27 September 2010, A became pregnant. She describes it as having happened as a result of the same process as had been continuing since 2008.
209. The consignment contained four straws. The mother says that she used one of them herself before realising that she had miscalculated her fertile period. She then threw the rest of the consignment away. She says that, unknown to her, A must have surreptitiously taken one of the other straws and used it on herself.
210. Of course, the mother's account is the only one that she could possibly give, short of telling the truth. I reject her assertion that she intended to throw away €210 worth of live, unused sperm or that she would not have noticed if some had gone missing.
211. I also reject the suggestion that A would act independently in this way. It is completely inconsistent with the nature of her relationship with her mother.
The mother and AI
212. At this point, I will give further reasons for my conclusion that the mother never attempted to inseminate herself.
213. As already noted, the mother has always made clear that she did not want to become pregnant. She said this to the father, to her boyfriend, to adoption professionals and to the children themselves.
214. Having been sterilised in 2001, she never took advice about the possibility of a reversal.
215. Although she knew that her diabetes was a serious complicating feature, she sought no advice about that matter. Nor did she take advice about the known risks associated with the medication she takes (statins, levothyroxine and mefenamic acid). Moreover, having experienced serious pelvic disease with an inflamed fallopian tube in March 2009, she asked for no advice about the effect of this on her ability to conceive.
216. The mother's medical records for the period from July 2008 onwards show that she had frequent consultations with her old and new GPs, her diabetes specialist and her surgeon. There were no less than nine occasions in this period when there would have been a natural opportunity for her to raise the issue. She could easily have done so without alerting the doctors to the AI plan. In fact, the only reference to pregnancy around that time is a GP record in August 2007 stating that she did not intend to become pregnant.
217. Next, if the mother had intended to become pregnant herself at the age of 44-46 and following sterilisation, she is most unlikely to have ordered quantities of sperm that were far below the recommended level for vaginal conception.
218. Lastly, when the ovulation testing device was analysed, only A's DNA was found on it.
219. I do not accept that the mother ever attempted to inseminate herself.
Explaining the pregnancy
220. Once A became pregnant, it was necessary for the family to give an explanation. A agreed to co-operate in a cover story because the mother told her that she (the mother) would face possible imprisonment if the truth were told.
221. B knew the true explanation, but was expected to say the same as the mother and A.
222. C was young enough not to be told about A's pregnancy. After the birth of the baby, she was told that the mother had adopted a fourth child who was ill and had had to go to hospital. This explained the baby's presence in hospital when C visited.
223. A says that so far as health professionals and others were concerned, she and the mother invented a story for use where necessary. This was that A had met and had sex with a young, named Australian boy who was briefly visiting with his parents. In her evidence, adding detail at will, the mother said that A had described being taken to his hotel.
224. This story, perhaps lacking some detail, was fed to the teenage pregnancy specialist midwife. She saw A between February and June 2011, five times with the mother and once on her own. She was also clearly told that the mother would look after the baby and eventually adopt it. The midwife was concerned about aspects of the situation, and consulted her supervisor about them, but she did not make a referral to social services.
225. The mother says that she actually believed that this was how A had become pregnant, because A told her this in a conversation in November 2010. She says that she thought that the baby's father should play some part. She says that she (or A, her accounts are contradictory) contacted the boy's parents by e-mail and that when they replied saying that they wanted nothing to do with situation, she sent a message thanking them. She has deleted those e-mails.
226. I reject that account. It would have been, as the mother knew, completely inconsistent with A's normal behaviour. They had already invented one story of how A became pregnant in 2008 (the youth club), and this was another. A never told the mother about the Australian boy, although there will have been a conversation in which he was invented.
227. The mother's account is also inconsistent with the close, highly protective and controlling nature of her relationship with A. Even if A had invented such an elaborate and pointless ruse to cover up her use of the donor sperm, there is no way that the mother would have been taken in by it. Moreover, had she actually believed that A had become pregnant in this way, the mother would have made sure that she knew exactly what had happened. In her evidence, she was not even able to say which hotel A was supposed to have gone to. Nor, as I find, were any e-mails written to Australia. There never was an Australian boy.
228. As stated, the DNA test results establishing D's actual paternity were received last month.
Residence statements, 27 May 2011
229. The mother planned to apply to the County Court following the birth of the baby for a residence order in her favour. Having consulted a local solicitor and the Grandparents Association, she created two draft statements, with A's assistance.
230. The mother also created a 'to do' list setting out a plan of action. This was last amended on 8 June 2011, and included a note to make the application for a residence order on 5 July 2011.
231. These documents underline the mother's intention to take over the care of the baby as soon as it was born. I exhibit them as Document 8.
232. The mother prevaricates. She now says that the only reason for applying for a residence order was a financial one. She says that A did not want to enter the benefits system and that obtaining a residence order was the only way in which the family could receive the benefits to which it was entitled.
233. I reject this new and unconvincing explanation. There is no reason to believe that A did not want to claim benefits, and the effort involved in issuing court proceedings would have been completely disproportionate, particularly as it would have involved misleading the court. There is a mountain of evidence, including from the mother herself, that she wished to take over the care of the baby, and the application for a residence order was no more than a step along that way.
234. It is certainly the case that the mother wanted to have control of the benefits to which A and her baby were entitled.
"Hello All" document
235. This is a draft letter to the mother's social contacts announcing the adoption of a fourth child. It was last edited on 2 July 2011, the day on which the mother was excluded from hospital.
236. The mother says that it was written in distress on that day. I do not accept that. In her own statement in these proceedings she wrote: "I do like to plan things, and I had started working on an explanation of the new addition to our family, which the police have retrieved from our computer. A was fully involved in this." This explanation is also more consistent with the content of the document itself, which begins with a detailed account of the mother's complaints about the anonymous letter and continues with a description of how the baby has been adopted from a mother in San Diego.
237. This document, which contains a mixture of actual information and fantasy, further demonstrates the mother's unstoppable need to possess another child and her facility for fabrication. A says that she first saw it when shown it by her solicitor. I exhibit it as Document 9.
Events at the hospital
238. The final crisis in this family's life came with the birth of D on 29 June 2011.
239. A, who was a virgin, had a very difficult labour, which she courageously endured without pain relief. D was a large baby and unfortunately A suffered a very serious tear during the delivery with heavy loss of blood. This required surgery, which was performed by Dr .
240. Following the birth and surgery, which left her exhausted, A did not lose her natural maternal instinct. The midwives learned from reading the notes that the plan was for A to relinquish the baby to her mother, but they instinctively felt that something was wrong. One of them says that immediately after the baby's birth A "just constantly sat and stared at him and I remember wondering how on earth she was going to give him up to her mother. She said that she wanted to breastfeed but M interjected saying "Is there much point in that, I will be the one giving him the bottle." ... M kept asking to hold the baby. I am not sure whether A didn't hear her asking or ignored her requests because she did not hand the baby to her."
241. The other midwife noted the mother's insistence that A hand the baby to her, and that she said "I need to get used to it". After A eventually passed the baby over, she continued to look at him. When the midwife suggested that A might want to breastfeed, the mother answered "We don't want any of that attachment thing."
242. As time went on, the midwives became more and more worried about what they regarded as pushy and insensitive behaviour by the mother. Finally, she attempted to remove the baby from the ward, and at that point they made a child protection referral. The mother reacted badly to this and in the end she was excluded from the ward on 2 July.
243. I wish to commend the midwives most highly for the action that they took that day to protect this teenage mother and her baby. Their willingness to stand up for them changed everything.
244. I also accept the obstetric registar's evidence that when he examined A prior to surgery, the mother was emotional and was hugging A and exclaiming "I'm sorry I had to put you through all this". The midwives heard the mother make similar remarks. I do not accept that the mother was merely expressing sympathy, as she now says. She was accepting responsibility in a way that she thought only A would ever understand. A says that she was "apologising for me being in pain due to the birth and the birth being because she had asked me to have a baby for her."
Initial social services/police investigation
245. On 1 July, a strategy meeting was held, at which a difference of opinion about the family between the social worker and the teenage pregnancy adviser became apparent.
246. On 2 July, A was visited by Mr and Mrs P. A was extremely tired and quiet. She said that they should seek information about the baby's father from her mother, who in due course gave them the Australian boy story.
247. A was undoubtedly and naturally alarmed at the child protection investigation, but she made no complaint about it at the time, and has not done so since. I reject the mother's accusation that it was conducted oppressively or insensitively. It is not surprising that she was anxious about what might be uncovered.
Hospital card 3 July 2011
248. Following her exclusion, the mother sent a card to A via B. This included the message: "I am so terribly sorry that you've been hurt so badly because of my actions after all the ordeals you've been through already. ... I promise you that I won't give up until you and Kalei are back home with us -- no matter what the social workers tell you. ... Please look after the beautiful Almond Danish boy and give him 1 million hugs and kisses from me. And don't call me Granny!"
249. I exhibit this card as Document 10. A considered that the apology referred to the mother's actions in relation to the social workers after the ordeal of AI and the birth. The mother says that she was apologising for her behaviour after the ordeal of the birth.
250. I consider that this card was a message from the mother to A that she should hold the agreed line.
251. The reference to "Almond Danish" is described by A as referring to the shape of the baby's eyes and his paternal origin. The mother attempted, unsuccessfully, to persuade me that it was in fact a reference back to a pastry of a different name that had been a favourite of A's on a trip to the United States about eight years previously.
252. Another matter of interest is the reference to the child's name as Kalei. At some point after A had had an antenatal scan that showed that she was expecting a boy, the mother (who was acutely disappointed that it was not a girl) settled on the name Kalei for the baby. A says that this was her mother's choice, and that she agreed to it. The mother says that Kalei was a name that A came up with independently, and that it is a freak coincidence that it is an anagram of her own chosen girl's name.
253. I accept A's evidence. The way in which the mother went about naming her daughter's baby is typical of her approach.
A's disclosure on 4 July 2011
254. The couple in question knew the family because they were interested in adopting from country X themselves. They met the mother in November 2007. I have already referred to their impressions of the family.
255. Mr P describes an occasion in March 2009 when he was helping during the mother's illness. He was driving A home from hospital, when she said "If I tell you something, will you have to tell anyone else?" As a teacher, he said that if it was serious he might have to tell someone else in order to keep her safe. A repeated the question, but ended up saying nothing. In her evidence, which I accept, she says that she had wanted to tell him about the AI, but she did not feel that her mother, who was ill at the time, could cope if she did.
256. Mr P visited A in hospital on Sunday 3 July 2011, in response to a text from B. He and his wife took B in to see A. They found A sitting on the bed with the baby in her arms, crying and saying that she was so ashamed. They reassured her and after a while Mr P asked who the father of the baby was. A said that she didn't know and didn't remember what had happened. She went on to say: "Mum's not involved but social services are suggesting this", which Mr and Mrs P felt was bizarre.
257. One of the girls said that her mother would need a solicitor and Mr P sent some names to her the following day. Being uneasy about A's situation, he also made arrangements for a solicitor to visit her the next day. This was another extremely beneficial intervention.
258. On the evening of Monday 4 July, Mr P brought a takeaway to A in hospital as she had seemed not to be eating. They spoke for three or four hours in A's private room. Mr P describes her as being very, very nervous and frightened, as if she were on a precipice. He describes A's story as unfolding as a "happening", not an accusation. It was a free flowing narrative born out of a desperation to tell him. As she spoke, he could see a weight lifting off her. She was extremely frightened of seeing her mother again and also frightened that her mother would go to prison. However, by the end of the discussion she appeared relieved and started talking about the future. She asked Mr P to take away the card that the mother had sent because she did not want it near her.
259. There is no challenge to Mr P 's evidence, and I accept it in its entirety. Having seen both him and A give evidence, I can entirely understand why she might have wanted to unburden herself to him. As she put it: "I told him because I trusted him and I knew that if I didn't tell someone then I probably never would. I trusted him to do the right thing with the information I gave him. I was scared to go home, because I knew I wouldn't be able to raise D as my child and I was scared at how my mum might raise him."
260. Mr P immediately wrote down what A had told him and reported it to hospital staff and social services. His intervention, like that of the midwives, was of crucial importance in protecting these children. It is no coincidence that A has named her baby after him, and no surprise that the mother rejected the name, saying that "If she had changed her mind and chosen any name other than D I would not have had any issue with that."
Mother's letter to A 4/5 July 2011
261. Meanwhile, and probably at the same time that A was talking to Mr P, the mother was drafting her further orders. By this time, she knew that A and the baby would be going into foster care, but was not aware of A's disclosures.
262. She wrote a letter giving A instructions for the registration of the child, setting out his full names (all chosen by her) and referring to the father as "unknown". She also gave instructions for the claiming of benefits. She was insistent that A give her home address to the Benefits Agency, even though she would not be living there: "No one is going to know that you're not there and it will make things easier." Later on, she said that she felt as if A has died and she cries all the time. She referred to the social workers as "horrible" and encouraged A to say that she would be unhappy in the foster home (which she had not yet arrived in) and wanted to go home. Significantly, she asked: "Did you say anything to anyone about the father?" She refers again to "the Almond Danish" and ends with a psychologically pressuring account of C's alleged distress at A's absence.
263. I exhibit this letter as Document 11. It represents one of the mother's last efforts to direct A in her habitual way, albeit now by remote control. She sent the letter to A, packed amongst her belongings. I find, notwithstanding her denials, that the mother attempted to conceal it from the foster carer and from social workers, as well she might have done, considering its contents.
Mother's email to Cryos 4 July 2011
264. At 20.06 on 4 July, the mother sent an e-mail to Cryos entitled "Many thanks". She told them that she had delivered a beautiful baby girl named Kelia on 29 June. She attached two photographs of D, taken in the hospital and dressed in pink.
265. I exhibit this email as Document 12.
266. The mother says that she desperately wanted to tell just one person that she had had a girl. She described it as a foolish last way of getting closure. It is an extraordinary feature of the family's situation that the mother was in effect in mourning after the birth of a child.
267. A's poignant observation is that when she saw that e-mail sometime afterwards, she felt upset for her mum because she never got what she wanted.
268. A's ABE interviews took place on 12 July, 27 September and 22 November.
269. The mother was questioned by the police under caution on 5 July, 12 September, 20 December and 1 February. On 8 September she made a complaint to her local councillor, saying that the social workers had "behaved in the most appallingly unprofessional manner. Surely there must be some means of bringing this injustice to light?"
270. B was ABE interviewed on 21 September and questioned by the police on 28 November.
271. The local authority has made out its case. I accept A's evidence in its entirety and I reject the mother's evidence about all disputed matters.
272. Although my findings are made on a balance of probabilities, I would add that, if it were necessary, I would find that the evidence in this case is so strong that I am sure of the conclusions that I have reached. The making of these findings is also supported by the father and by the Guardian for B and C.
273. B, significantly, did not seek to give evidence, nor has she put any case to contradict A's evidence.
274. The threshold is plainly crossed in relation to B, C and D on the basis of the findings. I defer final consideration of how it should be expressed until the later hearing.
275. I commend the high degree of co-operation that there has been between the local authority and the police, and the degree of priority which the local authority has given to this case. All the children and A will now need a great deal of sensitive support.
276. I will make appropriate orders for limited disclosure of the contents of this judgment. I will reconsider the question of publication of an anonymised version when the outcome of the police inquiry is known.
277. Such further observations as I now make are addressed to B and to A.
278. I know that they both love their mother very much and will now feel upset and anxious about her welfare. I know that she has good qualities, but she has also done some terrible things. I have listened to her for three days and have read a great deal that she has written and that has been written about her.
279. I have great concern about the mother's behaviour and almost equal concern about her attitude to it. From answers given in evidence, she clearly believes that what she has done is in some way justifiable. I am disturbed that she seems impervious to the consequences of her behaviour and to the damage that she is causing by continuing to deny her responsibility. She is using her influence to split the girls, unsettle A and recruit B to her side. At one point in A's cross-examination on behalf of the mother, she was asked whether she realised that her evidence might mean that C might not be able to go home. The mother should reflect on the effect of A being asked such a question.
280. I do not know where the root of the problem lies, and whether M is simply an egotist1 , or whether there are deeper problems. In evidence, and on other occasions, the mother has said that "the children are my entire life". Parents often say this sort of thing as a way of expressing their love for their children: it is a shorthand way of saying that there is nothing that one would not do for one's child. For this mother the idea has become sadly distorted to mean that there is nothing that she would not ask her children to do for her. For the present it is clear that she represents a significant risk to the safety of any dependent child in her care.
281. I am certain that neither B nor A are to blame for what has happened. B is not to be blamed for taking her mother's side in an attempt to keep the family together when under huge pressure from the mother. A is not to blame for telling the truth about what was done to her. Both girls have been exceptionally brave in different ways, and I hope that they will be able to begin to remove the wedge that the mother has driven between them. This may take time, but I believe that it can be done.
282. Nor can the girls be blamed in any way for the circumstances of D's conception: neither A for taking part, nor B for what she knew about it. The mother achieved their co-operation by duress. Duress in this context is the use of psychological force to cause someone to act in a manner contrary to their own wishes or interests. When the AI plan began, the girls were aged 13 and 12. They did not truly agree to anything and they bear no responsibility for it.
283. I hope that even at this late stage the mother will help the children by telling the truth. What has happened cannot be undone, and some good has surely come of it, but continued lying is nothing less than continued abuse.
284. I wish to record that I was in every way immensely impressed by A and I am sure that I could have said the same about B, had I met her. _________________
1 Egotism is defined as consisting of an exaggerated estimate of one's intellect, ability, importance, appearance, wit, or other valued personal characteristics. It involves placing oneself at the centre of one's world with no concern for others, including those loved or considered as "close," in any terms other than those set by the egotist. An egotist often exploits the sympathy or ignorance of others, and uses coercion or fraud to accomplish their plans.
Documents exhibited to the judgment of 8 March 2011
1 Letter from mother to father June 2004
2 Mother's Day card March 2009
3 Cryos delivery authorisation July 2009
4 Mother's letter to Cryos November 2011
5 Z Clinic registration form October 2009
6 "Deb Hughes" email November 2011
7 "Affirmations" document July 2010
8 Residence order statements June 2011
9 "Hello All" letter June/July 2011
10 Mother's card to A July 2011
11 Mother's letter to A July 2011
12 Mother's email to Cryos July 2011