Couple lose battle to get children back
A Norfolk couple who lost three of their children to forced adoption after allegations of abuse have been told they cannot have their children back, despite the fact it was 'possible' they were victims of a miscarriage of justice.
A NORFOLK couple who lost three of their children to forced adoption after allegations of abuse have been told they cannot have their children back, despite the fact it was "possible" they were victims of a miscarriage of justice.
Nicky and Mark Webster, from Cromer, were told by a top judge that it was too late to turn back the clock and return the children to them - he also said no blame should be attached to the family justice system.
The Websters were accused of inflicting multiple fractures on their baby boy in 2004, but expert evidence since then has sought to prove otherwise.
The Websters battled to persuade the judges that their baby son's injuries were due to a modern case of scurvy, brought on by his acute eating problems, which saw him existing on an exclusive diet of supermarket soya milk.
And Lord Justice Wall accepted it was "possible, Mr and Mrs Webster would say probable" that the basis on which their children, referred to as A, B and C, were taken from them was "wrong".
However, the judge added that, even if the couple were entirely innocent, the children had been settled with their adoptive families for over three years and it was now "too late" to turn
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the clock back.
The judge, sitting with Lord Justice Moore-Bick and Lord Justice Wilson at London's civil appeal court, said: "Mr and Mrs Webster believe that they have suffered a miscarriage of justice. They may be right.
"It would, however, be wrong in the court's view to criticise any of the doctors or social workers in the case. Each has acted properly throughout."
He said that any criticisms of the family justice system would be unjustified and that "if there is a lesson to be learned from the case it is the need to obtain second opinions on injuries to children at the earliest opportunity, particularly in cases where, as here, the facts are unusual".
Emphasising the "finality" of the children's adoption, the judge said the injuries suffered by Mr and Mrs Webster's baby had "a high specifity of abuse" and doctors who testified in the case had done so "honestly, competently and in good faith".
He added: "Non-accidental injury is infinitely more common than scurvy. The medical evidence obtained in 2007 could and should have been obtained by the parents in 2004."
The little boy, referred to as "B" in court, was taken into care with his two older siblings after doctors said his injuries were "non accidental" and they were all adopted in 2005. Their parents have not seen them since January 2005, when they were aged just five, three and two.
The couple made national headlines in 2006 when they fled to Ireland to have their fourth child, Brandon, fearing that otherwise he too would be taken from them. Brandon is now living with his parents after the authorities examined the Websters' parenting skills in a lengthy assessment.
The Websters' counsel, Mr Ian Peddie QC, told the judges that the time had now come to clear their names and for a court to publicly acknowledge they are victims of a "terrible miscarriage of justice" and should never have been separated from their children.
Mr Peddie said the "only dissenting voices" to the weight of expert opinion building up in the couple's favour were one orthopaedic surgeon and one of the two paediatricians that initially treated "B".
Lord Justice Wall told the court the case emphasised the finality of adoption orders.
Lisa Christensen, director of children's services at Norfolk County Council, said: "On the face of it, I welcome the judgment; particularly its recognition of the permanency of adoption and the stability this brings for hundreds of children."