Woman was tricked by Nigerian doctor into believing she had given birth
A woman who was tricked by a Nigerian doctor into believing she had given birth has won a legal battle in her attempt to adopt the baby.
The woman and her partner are fighting to regain custody of the little girl after social services became suspicious that they were not her biological parents and took her away.
The woman claims she was convinced she had become pregnant and gave birth to the child after seeking fertility treatment in Nigeria.
She said she was drugged while undergoing a process which she thought was a genuine birth and believed that the child was theirs.
A judge yesterday ruled that the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was an innocent party who had been duped in a so-called “baby exchange” scam in the African country.
The Appeal Court ruling is likely to greatly improve the couple’s chances of being approved as the child’s adoptive parents.
The court heard that the couple were “desperate” to have a baby and that the woman travelled to Nigeria in 2010 in the hope of conceiving through fertility treatment.
Believing she was pregnant, after nine months the con men sedated her to make her believe she had given birth at a clinic, she said.
However, after returning to Britain in 2011, suspicions about the baby’s parentage were raised by a GP and the local authority was alerted.
Tests revealed the woman and her husband were not the baby’s biological parents and Hackney Council placed the girl in the care of foster parents.
Social services told the couple the “birth” had been staged and that the child had been wrongfully removed from her unknown parents in Nigeria.
As part of ongoing care proceedings, Mr Justice Coleridge ruled at the High Court in December that the woman was an innocent victim of Nigerian fraudsters.
The local authority’s lawyers challenged the finding at the Appeal Court, arguing that no judge could reasonably believe the woman was unaware that she had not been pregnant, gone into labour and given birth to the girl.
However, the council’s appeal was yesterday rejected, with Lord Justice McFarlane saying Mr Justice Coleridge’s decision was one which he was “entitled” to reach on the evidence.
He said the judge was “fully alive” to the extraordinary nature of the woman’s claims, but found her to be “credible” and concluded the council had failed to prove she was a “knowing and willing partner” in the scam.
A newspaper article was produced at the High Court hearing which detailed a similar incident and which was put forward as evidence to establish that there is a practice of “baby exchange” in Nigeria.
The child’s court-appointed guardian supported the couple’s case, saying they had been “desperate and distressed” and were therefore an “easy target” for exploitation, the court head.
Hackney Council argued the story was a “charade” designed to unlawfully remove the child from her country and that the woman was a “knowing and willing participant”.
Upholding the judge’s ruling and dismissing the appeal, Lord Justice McFarlane said he understood the points made by the council, but that it was a “tall order” to overturn the findings of an experienced judge who had heard and seen the witnesses.
He said the judge had referred to aspects of the woman’s behaviour which were difficult to explain unless she genuinely believed the child was her own.
He added: “Other judges may have come to other conclusions on the evidence in this case, but this was an extremely experienced trial judge who, throughout, flagged up the basic incredulity.
“He was fully alive to those factors, but nevertheless took the view that the local authority had failed to prove the woman was a knowing and willing partner in a scam.”
The case has now been referred to the family division of the High Court where a decision will be taken on whether the couple can bring up the child.Telegraph