Judgement leaves Webster family grieving
'It's like a prisoner who is told he has been cleared of his crime, but he will still have to stay behind bars and serve out his original jail sentence.
'It's like a prisoner who is told he has been cleared of his crime, but he will still have to stay behind bars and serve out his original jail sentence.'
This is how Nicky Webster, a mum of four and expecting her fifth in six weeks time, yesterday described the situation in which she and husband Mark find themselves.
The Websters were told last week by top judges at the Court of Appeal that although they may well have been victims of a miscarriage of justice when three of their children were forcibly adopted, the couple will not be allowed to see them again.
The sorry tale of the Webster family, Norfolk County Council, a series of medical experts and a host of court cases across several years has hogged the headlines around the country.
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Amidst child abuse allegations with their roots back in 2003, the Websters lost their three eldest children, firstly put into care and then adopted into two other families in 2005. There has been no contact between parents and children since.
The medical evidence which secured the children's fate suggested one of them had been physically abused. But that evidence has since been called into serious question. A modern case of scurvy may have been to blame according to updated expert evidence. The highly unusual condition could well have been fuelled by a highly unusual - and GP approved - diet of supermarket soya milk aimed at tackling the child's eating difficulties.
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A judge said on Wednesday that even though it was 'possible' there had been a miscarriage of justice, the 'finality of adoption' should prevail and the adoption orders should stand.
Speaking at their Cromer home on Sunday, Mrs Webster said: 'It's a mixture of anger and frustration. The judgment didn't actually reach any conclusion.
'It's like a prisoner being exonerated, but he still can't go free.'
Addressing the question of whether to pursue further court action, Mr Webster said: 'People are saying to us 'you better not stop, please don't stop'.
'What you have to remember is that this isn't just about me and Nicky, there are grandparents and uncles and so on.
'Nicky's brother's kids keep asking when they are going to see their cousins. We can't give them an answer.'
What happens now is unclear and will require further legal advice.
Mr Webster added: 'The legal aid which we have had all the way until now can take us so far, but as we understand it, it can't take us as far as the European courts. We don't want to ask people for money, so the only way that would happen is if we won the lottery.
'Put simply, if we had the money we would go to Europe, but we don't.
'The thing that riles me is that the judges the other day said 'no one is to blame'. But if that's the case and this went so badly wrong, as the judges said it did, exactly who is to blame?'
The impact of not having their names fully cleared is wider than a social label. The Websters both feel prevented from applying for certain jobs because of their status in the eyes of the law.
While Mr Webster wanted the option of taxi driving and Mrs Webster would liked to have helped at a children's music group, neither have done so because the compulsory criminal records bureau check would have shown them up as unsuitable for the roles.
'So as well as not being allowed our children back, we can't get on with our lives,' said Mr Webster.
The only flip side of the coin is the pubic reaction, said Mr Webster.
'The support we have had from friends, family, people we hardly know and people we have never met has been incredible, everyone we have spoken to is behind us.
'We want to thank them all.
'All I can say is that I feel that somewhere, someday, someone in power will say 'actually, lets do something about this, we can't let this carry on'.
'That has to happen eventually, doesn't it?'
A Facebook site and a petition site have been set up in support of the Websters, the former by someone the family do not know and the latter by Mrs Webster's brother.