Court: mother can sue over son’s seizure

  • Fighting case: lawyer Victoria Greening is representing the mother of the boy

    Fighting case: lawyer Victoria Greening is representing the mother of the boy

A mother has been given permission by the Supreme Court to pursue legal action against the police and the island’s child protection agency over the seizure of her toddler son.

The three-year-old was removed from the woman’s lap while police officers restrained her as they were about to board a plane to the United States to escape her abusive boyfriend.

The boy was placed in foster care for almost three weeks and his mother only saw him twice before he was returned to her.

She applied for permission to seek a judicial review of the actions of police and the department, as well as damages, as reported by The Royal Gazette this month.

Victoria Greening, the woman’s lawyer, said the court had approved the application and a hearing date had been requested.

The mother said she and her son had “suffered immeasurably from the insensitive and unlawful actions” of the Department of Child and Family Services in an affidavit filed with the application.

She said that on the day of the flight she felt “so brave and so strong and so proud” to be doing the right thing for her and her child by leaving her abuser — but instead had the “most shocking and traumatic experience” of her life.

She said: “I did not cope well when my son was taken from me and I spent days crying inconsolably. It was the most frightening time of my life.”

The civil suit, which named the Attorney-General, the DCFS and the Commissioner of Police as respondents, asked for a ruling that the police and the department “acted unlawfully when they removed the child” from his mother on February 25.

It also asked the court to find that an emergency care order and a supervision order for the boy issued by the Family Court were unlawful and that the department acted unreasonably when it decided to apply to the court for the orders.

The mother said in the affidavit that she called 911 on December 11 last year to report her boyfriend’s “physical and verbal abuse” of her son.

The boyfriend is alleged to have flung the toddler across a room by his arm and threw an iron chair at him, which only just missed him and dented a fridge instead.

The mother said it was the only time the boyfriend hurt her son, but that he had subjected her to regular verbal and emotional abuse.

Police notified the DCFS about the attack on the boy, as required by law, and social workers became involved because of the risk to the child from the boyfriend, who is not the boy’s father.

The DCFS obtained a supervision order from the Family Court on January 30.

The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said the department did not give her any help and she stopped responding to their calls.

Social workers applied for an emergency care order to remove the boy from her care on February 13 and the child was seized at the airport 12 days later.

The mother later obtained a domestic violence protection order against her ex-boyfriend.

She was reunited with her son on March 16 when the emergency care order was lifted.

Ms Greening was successful in an application for the supervision order to be discharged on May 28.

The woman said she launched the lawsuit to make sure other people did not suffer as she and her son had.

She said: “No one has ever reported any concerns about my ability to parent and all assessments have reported me having a close and positive relationship and bond with my son, and of being a good parent.”

She added that her ex-boyfriend was not prosecuted for the December 11 incident.

The police refused to comment on why the man had not been charged.

A spokesman said: “With the matter in question now before the courts, the Bermuda Police Service is not prepared to comment at this time.”

The police earlier claimed the woman was “obstructive to DCFS and police” at the airport and was warned several times about obstruction, but was not handcuffed.

The Ministry of Legal Affairs, which is responsible for the DCFS, did not respond to a request for comment.

On occasion The Royal Gazette may decide to not allow comments on what we consider to be a controversial or contentious story. As we are legally liable for any libellous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.

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