DG & MG v an Bord Uchtála

JurisdictionIreland
CourtHigh Court
JudgeMiss Justice Laffoy
Judgment Date23 May 1996
Neutral Citation1996 WJSC-HC 3348

1996 WJSC-HC 3348

THE HIGH COURT

No. 196 S.P./1996
No. 415 S.S./1996
DG & MG v. AN BORD UCHTALA
IN THE MATTER OF THE ADOPTION ACTS 1952– 1991
AND IN THE MATTER OF JG AN INFANT

BETWEEN

DG AND MG
PLAINTIFFS

AND

AN BORD UCHTALA
DEFENDANT
IN THE MATTER OF BUNREACHT na hEIREANN ARTICLE 40.4.2
AND IN THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF INFANTS ACTS 1964
AND IN THE MATTER OF JG AN INFANT

BETWEEN

CG
PROSECUTRIX

AND

JANET PASLEY AND PACT
RESPONDENTS

AND

BY ORDER DG AND MG
NOTICE PARTIES

Citations:

ADOPTION ACT 1974 S3

CONSTITUTION ART 40.4.2

ADOPTION ACT 1952 S39(1)

ADOPTION ACT 1974 S3(1)

ADOPTION ACT 1974 S3(2)

G V BORD UCHTALA 1980 IR 32

VC V JM & GM 1987 IR 510

DG (AN INFANT), IN RE 1991 1 IR 491

O'C V SACRED HEART ADOPTION SOCIETY UNREP SUPREME 10.11.95 1995/20/ 5164

S V EASTERN HEALTH BOARD UNREP FINLAY 28.2.79 1979/7/1216

MC F V G & G 1983 ILRM 228

AC V ST PATRICKS GUILD ADOPTION SOCIETY UNREP FLOOD 31.7.95 1996/2/ 240

CONSTITUTION ART 40

GUARDIANSHIP OF INFANTS ACT 1964 S6(4)

D, IN RE 1987 IR 449

RSC (NO 1) 1990 SI 170/1990 R2

GUARDIANSHIP OF INFANTS ACT 1964 S10(2)(a)

GUARDIANSHIP OF INFANTS ACT 1964 S3

GUARDIANSHIP OF INFANTS ACT 1964 S2

CONSTITUTION ART 40.3

PEOPLE, DPP V SHAW 1982 IR 1

PW V AW UNREP ELLIS 21.4.80 1980/10/1862

GUARDIANSHIP OF INFANTS ACT 1964 S14

GUARDIANSHIP OF INFANTS ACT 1964 S16

Synopsis:

ADOPTION

Consent

Absence - Infant - Placement - Mother - Agreement - Change of mind - Infant in care of prospective adopters - Whether agreement to placement voluntary - Formal consent to placement - Formal consent annulled by change of mind - Subsequent affirmation of placement vitiated by lack of true volition - Pressure of circumstances on unmarried mother aged 18 years - Refusal of mother's parents to assist her - No true agreement to placement - Court without jurisdiction to authorise Adoption Board to dispense with mother's consent to adoption - Mother entitled to custody of child - Child unlawfully detained by prospective adopters - Adoption Act, 1952 (No. 25), s. 14 - Guardianship of Infants Act, 1964 (No. 7), ss. 6,10 - Adoption Act, 1974 (No. 24), s. 3 - Constitution of Ireland, 1937, Article 40 - (1996/196 Sp - Laffoy J. - 23/5/96)

|G. v. An Bord Uchtala|

CONSTITUTION

Personal rights

Liberty - Child - Custody - Mother - Rights - Placement of child for adoption - Child in care of prospective adopters - Placement invalid - Return of child sought by unmarried mother - Enquiry into whether detention of child was lawful - (1996/196 Sp - Laffoy J. - 23/5/96)

|G. v. An Bord Uchtala|

INFANTS

Custody

Mother - Rights - Adoption - Placement - Agreement of unmarried mother - Agreement invalid - Child in care of prospective adopters - Placement invalid - Return of child sought by mother - Constitution - Enquiry into whether detention of child was lawful - (1996/196 Sp - Laffoy J. - 23/5/96)

|G. v. An Bord Uchtala|

1

Judgment of Miss Justice Laffoy delivered on the 23rd day of May 1996

THE PROCEEDINGS
2

In the first mentioned proceedings (the Adoption Act Proceedings), which were initiated by Special Summons which issued on the 15th March, 1996, DG and MG (the Plaintiffs), a married couple, seek an Order pursuant to Section 3 of the Adoption Act, 1974(the 1974 Act) dispensing with the consent of CG (the mother), the natural mother of JG (the infant), to the making of an adoption order in respect of the infant and granting to the Plaintiffs sole custody of the infant pending the making of the adoption order.

3

The second mentioned proceedings (the Article 40 Application) had commenced prior to the initiation of the Adoption Act Proceedings and were directed against PACT (the Society), a registered adoption society, and Janet Pasley (Mrs. Pasley), a social worker employed by the Society claiming, on behalf of the mother, production of the infant. By the combined operation of two Orders made by Kinlen J. on 13th March, 1996 the Plaintiffs were joined as Notice Parties and were ordered, in accordance with Article 40.4.2 of the Constitution, to produce the infant before the Court at 11.00 a.m. on 15th March, 1996.

4

Subsequently on 20th March, 1996 Costello P. ordered that both matters be listed for hearing on 16th April, 1996, the Article 40 Application to be heard after the Adoption Act Proceedings.

5

On the first day of the hearing of the Adoption Act Proceedings, it was ordered that PACT and the mother be joined as Notice Parties in the Adoption Act Proceedings.

THE FACTS
6

The mother was born on the 8th December, 1976 and grew up on a farm in the north-west of the country with her parents and three siblings, all brothers. She attended a second level school in a town located about six miles from her home and sat the Leaving Certificate examination in June 1994 and passed it. In the autumn of 1994 she commenced a secretarial course at the same school.

7

Around the time she sat for her Leaving Certificate examination the mother was seeing a boyfriend, whom I will call B, who was about four years older than her. She testified that the relationship was not close. However, she had sexual intercourse with him once. Shortly afterwards they split up.

8

Around the second week in January 1995, the mother attended her local general practitioner because she was feeling unwell and discovered that she was almost six months pregnant. She had just turned eighteen years of age and she, as she put it, was "pretty shocked". The doctor told her she would have to tell her parents.

9

Neither of the mother's parents has supported her in her decision to seek the return of the infant, nor has any member of her family. The image of her parents which emerged from the evidence was of a very conservative inward looking couple living in a rural community, adhering to a Protestant faith within that community and deeply conscious of preserving what they perceived as the family's good name within that community. The mother's parents were shocked when she told them she was pregnant. Her father's reaction was to suggest that she have an abortion, which was not a viable proposition and which was never contemplated by the mother.

10

The solution to the problem was provided by the doctor. He arranged for the mother to come to Dublin and stay with an acquaintance of his until the birth. The mother testified that her parents just wanted to get her out of her home area so that nobody would know of her pregnancy. It was their idea that she would stay in Dublin until after the birth, that she would give the baby up for adoption, and she would return home without the baby. Her absence from her home area would be explained on the basis that she was doing a child-care course in Dublin. The baby was due around the middle of March and the plan was that the mother would be back home by the 24th March, 1995 to attend a relative's twenty-first birthday party. The mother went a long with the idea because, she testified, she thought it would be best to keep the peace.

11

On 19th January, 1995 the mother's parents brought her to Dublin by bus. They met the woman with whom she was to stay at a city centre hotel. Her parents then went straight back home. The only contact they had with her until she returned home after the birth of the baby on 24th March, 1995 was fortnightly telephone calls from them. As her parents did not have a telephone in their home, the mother could not telephone them. She had been in Dublin on only one occasion previously, on a school outing to the Zoo.

12

The mother stayed in the accommodation arranged for her for about a month. Then she moved for one weekend to a house in a suburban location which provides accommodation for pregnant girls and from there she moved to another house in an inner city location which provides accommodation for pregnant girls and single girls and their babies, where she stayed until she was admitted to the National Maternity Hospital at Hollyes Street.

13

Within a few days of her arrival in Dublin, on 23rd January, 1995, the mother was brought by the woman with whom she was staying to the National Maternity Hospital where she had a meeting, on her own, with one of the hospital social workers, Anna Comerford (Ms. Comerford), in which her plans for the future were discussed. An appointment was made for a further meeting the following week on 31st January, 1995. At that second meeting the mother told Ms. Comerford that she wished to place her baby with a Protestant family for adoption and that she would like the option of an open adoption because she would not like to lose contact with her baby. Ms. Comerford made an appointment for the mother with Mrs. Pasley because she considered that the Society would best serve the mother's needs, whether she decided to place her baby for adoption or not.

14

Mrs Pasley's role in the Society is to run a counselling service for unmarried mothers, which may be, but is not necessarily, linked with adoption. She met, counselled and assisted the mother on five or six occasions before the birth of the infant, a boy, who was born in the National Maternity Hospital at around mid-day on 22nd March, 1995. Two days later, on 24th March, 1995, the mother was discharged from the National Maternity Hospital at her own request to travel home alone by bus. It is quite clear from the evidence that the mother was pressurised by her parents and, in particular, by her father to return home without the infant on that day to allay suspicions about her absence. Mrs. Pasley had visited the mother in hospital on the previous day and, although she was alarmed that the mother was being discharged to travel home by bus within two days of the birth, she understood her anxiety to return home. The infant was not ready to be discharged and arrangements were made that he would be detained in hospital over the weekend and that he would be released to the custody of Mrs....

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