Court fight as couple cleared of abuse aim to get child back
A couple are preparing for the latest stage of a legal fight to regain care of their child after being cleared of abuse at a criminal trial.
The man and woman say they have been victims of a miscarriage of justice because their child has been adopted when they have not been convicted of any offence.
One of the UK's leading judges is due to re-examine their case at a private hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London this week.
Sir James Munby, the most senior family court judge in England and Wales, is expected to analyse evidence from medical experts and social workers at a hearing starting on Monday.
The judge has ruled that no-one involved can be named - and has said that little detail about the child can be revealed.
Journalists will be allowed to attend the hearing - but the judge has said he will not permit reporting of evidence outlined at this stage.
Sir James, president of the Family Division of the High Court, gave detail of the case in a preliminary ruling published in June.
He referred to the child only as "X" and described the circumstances of the case as "exceedingly unhappy".
Local authority social services staff raised concerns shortly after the child was born, Sir James said.
Social workers said the child had suffered "various injuries".
In early 2013 a family court judge had made a number of findings against the couple - after hearing evidence from three medical experts and the child's parents.
Later that year a judge ruled that the child should be taken from the care of his parents and placed for adoption.
In 2014 the child was placed with prospective adoptive parents - and in 2015 they adopted the child after a judge made an adoption order.
Sir James said criminal proceedings had also started, and the couple had been accused of harming the child and prosecuted.
A criminal trial had begun in 2015 - but prosecutors abandoned the prosecution after expert evidence was given to the jury.
The couple were acquitted - on the direction of the trial judge - on the basis that there was no case to answer.
They are now challenging the findings made by the family court judge in 2013.
Sir James is expected to be given all available medical evidence relating to any injuries the child suffered before ruling whether the 2013 findings should be overturned.
The judge is also expected to hear evidence from the couple and adoptive parents.
He said the couple had made it clear that if they succeeded in overturning the 2013 findings they would seek a revocation of the adoption order and try to regain care of their child.
All parties involved in the latest litigation have been represented by barristers.
Sarah Morgan QC and Sharon Segal have represented the local authority involved, Martha Cover and Katy Rensten have represented the couple and Deirdre Fottrell QC has represented the adoptive parents.
"This matter arises in exceedingly unhappy but, I should like to think, most unusual circumstances," Sir James said in his preliminary June ruling.
"The case put forward by the birth parents is simple and compelling. They have been, they say ... the victims of a miscarriage of justice."
He had added: "It is appropriate to proceed to a full re-hearing of the original allegations made in the care proceedings. Nothing short of a full re-hearing will suffice."