Court Of Appeal
A Nigerian couple who could not bear children received some relief Thursday in a London High Court when Mr. Justice Coleridge ruled that the couple could keep a two-year-old baby even though DNA tests had confirmed they are not the biological parents of the girl, despite their story line.
According to a report by the BBC, the mother claimed she was tricked by a doctor in Nigeria into believing she had given birth while sedated, after she went to Nigeria for fertility treatment.
The local authority had claimed the couple's story was a "charade".
But the judge ruled they were victims of an "appalling scam".
Their distress, it seemed, forced them into a desperate option. The woman claimed that she returned several months later to the hospital, and was sedated, after which she was handed over a baby she was purported to have been delivered of. She was, however, not explicit or categorical whether after taking the fertility treatment, she got pregnant or not. Was she attending ante-natal sessions? Could she have been pregnant for nine months without knowing it or being sure?
The couple, based in London, had said several IVF treatments the woman took to enable her to conceive failed, prompting them to come to Nigeria in 2012 to undergo fertility treatment at an undisclosed hospital.
The couple - who live in London but cannot be named for legal reasons - failed to conceive a child despite undergoing IVF treatment in the UK.
They were said to be "desperate and distressed".
After receiving the “delivered” baby, the couple returned to London with the baby, and passed it as theirs, But their GP (General Practitioner—medical doctor) raised concerns. He may have doubted the ability of the woman to conceive, having treated them for years before she travelled to Nigeria on a baby mission.
As a result of the GP’s inquisition, the child was taken into care and a DNA test proved the child was not related to the couple.
But the couple soon resorted to launching legal proceedings to get custody of the baby. There was now a shift in their hold and claim: no longer a medical argument, but legal.
The several gaps and gaffes in their story made the local authority to describe it as a “charade.”
But Coleridge described the case as "extraordinary, bizarre and worrying."
The controversial judgment is already receiving flaks from across interest groups.
Charities, for instance, have raised concerns about the judgment, warning that it may encourage trafficking.
At the High Court yesterday, Coleridge ruled that the pair, whom he described as people of the "highest calibre," should be given custody of the girl.
A local court authority had picked holes in the story of the Nigerian couple, stressing that they were "knowing and willing participants" in the scheme.
The court was told that such "baby exchange" frauds were common in Nigeria. Police and immigration officials in the UK are believed to be investigating several incidents.
But Coleridge decided the couple were victims of the "most appalling scam". He described them as "people of the highest calibre and of complete integrity".
He added he was "deeply impressed by their humanity".
Yesterday, he awarded the parents custody of the child, ordering the local authority to return the baby to them within seven days.
The judge also made it clear the case was not an isolated example. He spoke of other cases before the court "on almost identical facts". He said it was in the public interest for this case to be widely known.
But unimpressed by the ruling, the local authority involved - which also cannot be revealed for legal reasons - said they were "disappointed" with the judgment.
"Our concern has been, and continues to be, what is in the best interest of this young child.
"We will now do all we can to ensure the child continues to thrive."
Elsewhere, some charities have expressed concerns that the judgment will have a wider negative effect and will encourage traffickers.
Andy Elvin, Chief Executive of Children and Families Across Borders, said: "These unscrupulous people will exploit people for vast amounts of money."
He added there is likely to be an upsurge in applications for visas for babies coming from Nigeria.
He said: "Behind every one of these children lies an actual birth mother. She has been coerced; she may have been kidnapped or raped.
"These children are not given up willingly." There have been several cases of baby scams in Nigeria. Some motherless babies’ homes have been known to trade away the children in their homes for varying sums of money, depending on the age and sex of the baby. Some other homes have also been accused of quartering young girls, getting men to impregnate them with the understanding that they will not lay claim to the children they bear. Many of such children are eventually sold to desperate couples who are unable to naturally bear children of their own.