Tuesday, 10 November 2015
A leading judge says he is “acutely conscious” of concerns voiced in parts of Europe about the “forced adoption” of children in England and Wales.
Sir James Munby, the most senior family court judge in England and Wales, says English law allows children to be adopted without their parents’ consent – and that practice is “unusual” in Europe.
He says there is “no shirking” the fact that the English approach has given “rise to controversy” abroad – particularly in Europe.
But Sir James says there can be no suggestion that the domestic law of England and Wales is incompatible with the UK’s international obligations or its obligations under the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
Sir James, the President of the Family Division of the High Court – and a judge in the Court of Appeal – outlined his thoughts in a ruling on a case involving the futures of two Hungarian children.
“England is unusual in Europe in even permitting adoption without parental consent, indeed in the teeth of parental opposition – what I shall refer to as ‘non-consensual adoption’ – and even more unusual in the degree to which it has recourse to non-consensual adoption, both domestically and in the case of children who are foreign nationals,” said Sir James.
“I am acutely conscious of the concerns voiced in many parts of Europe about the law and practice in England and Wales in relation to what is sometimes referred to as ‘forced adoption’ but which I prefer, and I think more accurately, to refer to as non-consensual adoption.
“There is no shirking the fact that our approach in these matters has given rise to controversy abroad and particularly in Europe.”
But he added: “The … point which must not be forgotten in all the rhetoric about ‘forced adoption’, is that, whatever the concerns expressed elsewhere in Europe, there can be no suggestion that, in this regard, the domestic law of England and Wales is incompatible with the United Kingdom’s international obligations or, specifically, with its obligations under the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.”
Sir James had headed a three-strong Court of Appeal panel which analysed the case involving the two Hungarian children at a hearing in London.
And he outlined his thoughts when he explained the background to the case.
He said a judge sitting in the High Court – Judge Clifford Bellamy – had ruled that decisions about their long-term care should be transferred to a court in Hungary.
The local authority which had responsibility for their care had argued that Judge Bellamy had been wrong.
But the three appeal judges dismissed an appeal.