Father's emotional message to adopted children

STEVE DOWNES A sobbing Norfolk father sent an emotional message today to the three children who were taken away from him and his wife amid abuse allegations.

STEVE DOWNES

A sobbing Norfolk father sent an emotional message today to the three children who were taken away from him and his wife amid abuse allegations.

Standing on the steps of the High Court in London after a landmark ruling that they could keep their fourth child, 13-month-old Brandon, Mark Webster simply said: “We love you. We love you very much”.

The message came after Mr Webster and his wife Nicky witnessed a joyful ending to their long quest to keep Brandon, who they feared would be forcibly adopted as soon as he was born last year.

The ruling by Mr Justice Holman to allow Norfolk County Council to drop care proceedings over Brandon means the Cromer couple can finally bring their toddler home for good, safe in the knowledge that the shadow of adoption had finally been lifted.

But while they can celebrate a happy ending with Brandon, the couple will now head to the Court of Appeal in a bid to clear their name of the abuse allegations that saw their three older children forcibly adopted.

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However, the legal finality of adoption decisions means they will never be reunited with their other youngsters, who are now aged seven, five and almost four.

Today, at London's High Court, Mr Justice Holman “unhesitatingly and gladly” agreed to the council's request to drop the proceedings surrounding Brandon.

He told 34-year-old Mr Webster and his 26-year-old wife, who sat at the front of the courtroom, that he hoped their future would be “very, very rosy”.

And he added: “There is no current basis for considering that he is at any risk of harm, and there is every reason to believe that he is thriving in a caring and loving family unit and home.”

After the hearing, the couple's solicitor, George Hawks, said: “The whole family is extremely relieved that the spectre of the possible removal of Brandon from Nicky and Mark's care at some stage has finally been lifted.

“What has happened to this family over the last few years has been an absolute tragedy - their lives, the lives of their family and other people have been devastated by these events.

“Today is at least some vindication of the family's fight to right what has been a very serious miscarriage of justice.”

The three children were forcibly adopted in 2005, following a court ruling in 2004 that either or both of the Websters had knowingly caused a series of fractures to the middle child, identified only as child B.

Mr and Mrs Webster always refuted the claims and fled to Ireland for the birth of Brandon last year, fearing he would suffer the same fate as his siblings.

When they returned, it was to a special unit for five months of intensive observation of their parenting skills. They were allowed to take Brandon home last November, where the three remained under close supervision by children's services staff.

The hearing in 2004 hinged on the evidence of four medical experts who said the fractures must have been caused non-accidentally.

But subsequently, a series of nutrition experts said the middle child may have suffered fractures as a result of undiagnosed scurvy, which came about through a vitamin-deficient diet made up solely of soya milk.

Mr Justice Holman said: “Those doctors who consider he was or may have been suffering from scurvy also say that the effect on his skeletal development would have left his bones vulnerable to fracturing in the course of normal, non-abusive handling.

“However, some of the treating doctors continue to say that in their opinion child B was not suffering from scurvy.”

The new doubt, along with Mr and Mrs Webster's demonstration of their parenting skills, convinced the council to make today's request to drop the proceedings in respect of Brandon.

Tonight, Lisa Christensen, the council's director of children's services, said all the previous decisions had been taken “in good faith” and “on the basis of the evidence”.

She added: “The judge has not criticised what we've done. His view was 'what else could they have done, given what they were advised?'

“There are still question marks around the previous case. I'm happy that children's services staff did the right thing all the way through. They followed the correct processes and kept their eyes on the wellbeing of the child.”

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