Posted by Rebecca Stevens, Partner
Caution for herbal treatments to conceive
A case before the High Court recently confirmed that a couple’s desperation to conceive a baby led them into the arms of unscrupulous fraudsters and caused them to be suspected of child trafficking.
Photo credit: iris https://www.flickr.com/photos/irisphotos/
Despite 10 years of trying surgery, laser treatment and IVF, a couple, both British citizens, had failed to conceive a child. However, in 2010, the father bumped into a friend from university who told of a couple who had had twins after undergoing ‘some herbal treatment’ in Nigeria. The couple jumped at the chance and travelled to Nigeria where a Dr Cletus Okolo prescribed a course of herbal treatments he claimed would help them conceive.
On returning to Britain and taking the herbs, the mother noticed her body changing. Her face, arms and abdomen all swelled up and even a “kindly and well-meaning” local GP was taken in, accepting that she was seven months’ pregnant.
The doctor signed off a maternity certificate and the couple travelled back to Nigeria. At the clinic near Lagos, they handed over £4,500 and the mother was given a brown liquid to drink before entering what she thought was a delivery room.
The father waited in the corridor outside and, after few minutes, heard a baby cry. He entered the room to find the baby girl lying on the bed beside his groggy wife. He was even duped into believing he had seen the umbilical cord cut and was given a placenta to carry away in a plastic bag.
Later, Dr Okolo wrote a note saying: ‘treatment successful, patient delivered of a baby girl. All fees paid. God’s doing.’
That was the only document that accompanied the birth and, when the couple flew home with their ‘daughter’, social workers were quickly on the alert. The couple were arrested and the baby girl was taken into police protection. To the couple’s ‘considerable dismay and shock’, DNA testing proved that the little girl was not their child.
This left the little girl “effectively an orphan” in London, with no prospect of ever learning who her real parents are and possibly facing a childhood in the British care system.
At the hearing where the Judge needed to consider whether the couple intentionally ‘bought’ the child, the Judge said “contrary to the submissions of the local authority and guardian I do not find that the parents were wilfully and knowingly involved with or parties to a wrongful removal of A from her mother, or that they cynically ‘bought’ a baby”.
The fact remains that A is effectively an orphan. There is no-one in this country who has parental responsibility for her and no information as to her birth, parentage, or background.”
In this on-going case the Judge has directed a further hearing to decide where the little girl should live; with the couple, in long term foster care or whether she should be adopted.
Her finding that the couple were innocent dupes will improve their chances of persuading the court that the future of the girl should be with them. The court’s primary consideration will be what is in the child’s best interests.
Rebecca, an associate family lawyer in our Family team, is renowned for her endless energy, drive and enthusiasm in dealing with her clients on legal issues relating to children. She was one of a select group of family law thought leaders chosen by the NSPCC to participate in discussions regarding the Government’s proposed changes to family law.
If you’d like further information or advice from our family team contact 0800 923 2074 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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