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Friday, 14 December 2018

Judge backs child adoption after rejecting parents' miscarriage of justice claim

Written by Brian Farmer

A couple who complained about their child being taken from them and handed to adopters even though a cruelty prosecution had been abandoned were not the victims of a miscarriage of justice, a leading judge has concluded after a review.

Karrissa Cox and former soldier Richard Carter, who are in their late 20s and from Guildford, said they were "innocent parents" who had been unfairly blamed by Surrey County Council social workers and a family court judge.

The couple said they would fight to regain the child, and clear their names, after being acquitted on the direction of a judge who oversaw a criminal court trial three years ago.

They said the "family court process" had left them feeling "presumed guilty".

But a senior family court judge who reviewed evidence has now concluded that their child was the victim of "really serious" abuse and "cruelty" when a baby.

Sir James Munby said that, during the first few weeks of life, the child suffered an "extraordinary constellation" of "inflicted injuries" for which there was no "innocent explanation".

He said in a ruling published on Friday that he could not be sure exactly who caused which injuries.

But he said only Ms Cox and Mr Carter, an Afghanistan war veteran, were "within the pool of possible perpetrators".

Sir James, who until his recent retirement was president of the Family Division of the High Court and the most senior family court judge in England and Wales, said Ms Cox and Mr Carter carry a "high measure of responsibility" for "serious parental failures".

He backed the family court judge who analysed the case three years ago, pointed the finger of blame at Ms Cox and Mr Carter and approved the child's adoption.

Sir James said the family court "process" overseen by Judge Peter Nathan had been vindicated and that neither Ms Cox nor Mr Carter, nor their child, had been victims of any miscarriage of justice.

The judge also revealed that the couple, who are no longer together, had abandoned their attempt to regain the child at an early stage of his review.

He said he thinks they realised "the game was up".

Sir James had re-considered the case at a private hearing in London and imposed limits on what could be reported pending the outcome of his review.

He said the couple, and the council involved, can now be named in reports of his new ruling.

But he said neither the child, nor the adoptive parents, could be named.

HOW EVENTS UNFOLDED IN CRUELTY CASE COUPLE'S BID TO REGAIN ADOPTED CHILD


2012

  • - Social services staff at Surrey County Council raise concerns, shortly after the child is born.
  • - Staff say medics had found the child had broken bones in an arm and leg, a torn upper lip frenulum - caused by a blow or by "an object being rammed into the mouth" - plus bruises on the chest, stomach, legs, arms and back.
  • - They say one or other parent, or both, inflicted serious injuries on the child shortly after birth.
  • - The couple deny the allegations.

2013

  • - A family court judge begins to analyse the case and makes a number of findings, on the balance of probabilities, against the couple.
  • - Judge Peter Nathan analyses evidence during a private hearing at Guildford County Court and later rules that the child should be placed with prospective adoptive parents.

2015

  • - The child is adopted.
  • - The couple are prosecuted, accused of child cruelty, but are later acquitted.
  • - A trial at Guildford Crown Court, overseen by Judge Christopher Critchlow, is abandoned after one medical expert says he cannot be sure that the child suffered fractures.
  • - Prosecutors tell Judge Critchlow that, in the light of that evidence, they cannot be sure there is a realistic prospect of conviction on a beyond-reasonable-doubt basis.
  • - Ms Cox and Mr Carter complain of being victims of a miscarriage of justice, decide to tell their story to the public, and mount an appeal against findings made by Judge Nathan.

2016

  • - Sir James begins to review the case, when he is president of the Family Division of the High Court, and hears evidence at an appeal hearing in London.
  • - He says he has considered the evidence of more than a dozen medical experts and seen all the expert evidence available to Judge Nathan and Judge Critchlow.
  • - The couple had initially wanted Judge Nathan's adoption order overturned and the child returned to their care, but at an early stage of the review process they tell Sir James they have changed their minds.
  • - They say it is "too late" for the child to leave the adoptive parents and that returning the youngster to their care would not be the "right thing".
  • - Sir James says he has decided to continue with the review hearing and analyse all available evidence.

2018

  • - In his review ruling published on Friday, he brands the couple's change of heart "cynical".


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