Page last updated at 14:34 GMT, Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Abuse case children stay adopted

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Judges said the Websters may have suffered a miscarriage of justice

A Norfolk couple whose children were adopted after accusations of abuse have been told they cannot get them back.

The couple "may be right" in believing they suffered a miscarriage of justice but the courts can do nothing for them, senior Appeal Court judges have said.

Nicky, 27, and Mark Webster, 35, from Cromer, were refused permission to set aside adoption orders for their three eldest children made in December 2005.

Social workers began proceedings after accusing them of injuring a child.

The three children have only been referred to in the case as A, B and C.

The action was taken by Norfolk County Council because B had suffered non-accidental injuries.

The court concluded that after three years it was in any event too late to set the orders aside
Appeal Court judgement

However, evidence came to light in 2007 showing the child may not have suffered deliberate injury and the fractures may have been attributable to scurvy or iron deficiency caused by a feeding disorder.

The three appeal judges said: "The case emphasises the finality of adoption orders.

"The circumstances in which adoption orders can be revoked or set aside are extremely limited. None applied in the present case.

"The court concluded that after three years it was in any event too late to set the orders aside, and that it would not be in the interests of the children to do so.

"It is therefore possible (Mr and Mrs Webster would say probable) that the basis upon which A, B and C were taken into care and subsequently adopted (Mr and Mrs Webster's alleged non-accidental injury of child B) was wrong.

I have huge sympathy for Mr and Mrs Webster
Lisa Christensen, director of children's services at Norfolk County Council

"Mr and Mrs Webster believe that they have suffered a miscarriage of justice. They may be right.

"It would, however, be wrong in the court's view to criticise any of the doctors or social workers in the case. Each has acted properly throughout.

"If there is a lesson to be learned from the case it is the need to obtain second opinions on injuries to children at the earliest opportunity, particularly in cases where, as here, the facts are unusual."

Lisa Christensen, director of children's services at Norfolk County Council, said: "I have huge sympathy for Mr and Mrs Webster.

"It has taken a very long time to reach this stage and this must have been a very hard experience for them.

"The judgement explores every element of the case. I needed to be assured Norfolk children's services' role was done properly and I am satisfied the judges have recognised we did everything we should have done."



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