A pregnant Italian woman who was forced by social workers in Britain into having a caesarean section and then made to leave her new baby behind had been detained under the Mental Health Act following a panic attack when she could not find the passports of her two daughters.
The woman was in England for a two-week Ryanair training course at Stansted airport when she contacted police during the attack. She then called her mother, who was in Italy with her two daughters.When officers arrived at her hotel room last summer, they told the woman that they were taking her to hospital to "make sure that the baby was OK".
They had spoken on the phone to the woman's mother in Italy, who explained her daughter was probably under stress because she suffered from a "bipolar" condition and had not been taking her medication. Instead of taking the woman to hospital, officers took her to a psychiatric unit, where she was restrained and sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
Essex social services then obtained a High Court order against the woman, allowing her to be forcibly sedated and the child to be taken by doctors from her womb under a caesarean section. The baby girl, who is now 15 months old, is still being looking after by social services, who are refusing to give the child back to her mother.
The woman has launched a legal battle to have her returned. Lawyers for the woman have questioned why her family in Italy were not consulted and why social services insisted on keeping the child in Britain despite an offer from a family friend in the United States to care for her. Under British law, a child should be adopted by members of their wider family wherever possible. But social services ruled that an aunt of the baby's stepsister, an American resident, could not look after her because there was no "blood tie".
John Hemming, the MP for Birmingham Yardley and chairman of the Public Family Law Reform Coordinating Campaign, which wants reform and greater openness in court proceedings involving family matters, said there were many other instances of children taken from mothers in Britain, who are then deported. He referred to the case of a mother whose child, now five years old, was born in Sweden, but was taken into the care of a local authority in Britain after the woman was involved in an incident at Heathrow airport.
The child was placed in a foster home in September 2012 and continued to live there until an appeal court ruled that British authorities did not have jurisdiction over the child. Mr Hemming said local authorities were often under pressure to make quick decisions about foster placements and adoptions. Michael Gove, Britain's education secretary, launched a drive earlier this year to raise the number of children adopted.
It came after figures showed that almost half of all councils were failing to meet basic targets for placing children with adoptive parents. Mr Hemming said: "It's a very big problem that has been swept under the carpet. Partly because it is so awful, people want to turn a blind eye to it." A spokesman for Essex county council said the local authority could not comment on continuing cases.