A Christian couple, whose two adopted sons were removed by social workers, today (TUES 19 JAN) are presenting their case before the Court of Appeal.
The appeal is taking place at the Royal Courts of Justice. The judges hearing the case are Lady Justice King and Lord Justice Simon. The 'Browns' are supported by the Christian Legal Centre.
John and Mary Brown (names changed) received the two brothers into their home in 2010. Mary, who is a former teacher in her early sixties, had become aware of the harm that the older boy had suffered and wanted to help him and his younger brother.
'Dan' and 'Tom' were still in primary school when they went to live with the Browns. The couple legally adopted the boys in 2013.
The brothers lived with their new family for nearly four years before they were taken into care in May 2014.
Because of their highly traumatic background, the boys had various behavioural issues, and the Browns were trained in dealing with them.
Tom in particular struggled with not wanting to go to school. He was doing well academically, but he was "in a fairly heightened mood" when his SATs started.
Mrs Brown was driving the boys to school on the day of Tom's second SAT, when he reached for the steering wheel. In that moment she pushed him back.
Tom, possibly supported by his younger brother, linked this incident with fabrications, which he told the school.
The new head teacher and his assistants had not known the boys for that long. Rather than consult with other teachers, they called social workers and the police. The boys were taken away instantly, not to be returned to their family home from that day to this.
The boys are now separated, and Tom is living in a care institution.
Their parents have been absolutely devastated by the events and have been fighting for 20 months to get back their sons.
Speaking of the pain of separation, Mr Brown said: "Inside, you feel grey - every day."
Mrs Brown added: "I didn't wash their bed sheets for several weeks, because I could still smell them."
When their case was heard last January, the Browns said that the opinions of social workers were taken as truth by the judge.
The social workers exhibited no clear understanding of Christianity, and the Browns' parenting methods were criticised.
The primary reason the judge gave for refusing to return the children to their adoptive parents was that a psychologist's report didn't recommend the children's return.
Andrea Williams, the Christian Legal Centre's chief executive, said:
"We have been unable to expose the gross injustice in this case because of the secrecy surrounding the family courts. This case is the tip of the iceberg. These wonderful parents have been greatly disrespected. The state seemed not to treat them as parents because they were adoptive parents.
"The objective evidence of the boys' progress over years seems to have been dismissed. Such a flimsy rationale for the removal of children from a loving home is appalling."
The boys were placed under a full care order.
Commenting on the family court system, Mr Brown said:
"Objective evidence is not required in these courts. And this is Britain...
"The net effect is that, in this place we consider home...our boys can be taken...by the British state."
In May 2015, the Court of Appeal granted the couple the right to appeal.
In granting the appeal, Lady Justice Black ruled that there should be a review as to whether the judge at the family court had taken the right factors into account when deciding the boys’ future and whether he had failed to give proper weight to the good parenting that had been given to the children for three years prior to their forced removal.
Paul Diamond, Standing Counsel to the Christian Legal Centre, will argue that the best environment for the boys is with their parents and that the alternative has been worse for them.
Mr Brown said: "We believe that God is in this with us... We do believe that our boys will come back when people realise the injustice that's happened to us - but not only to us. It's happening to many people up and down this country."
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The Christian Legal Centre has seen a growing number of family cases over the last few years. Commenting on this case, Andrea Williams said:
"We are seeing a worrying trend, whereby Christian parents are being treated with suspicion because of their faith.
"The 'Browns' were treated as if they were not the ‘real’ parents. Their views on disciplining the children and taking them to church were wholly disrespected by the social services and the children themselves tragically taken away.
"It is time for a change regarding the secrecy surrounding child courts. Their secretive nature means that injustices can be covered up, and it is time for this to be reviewed.
"We are grateful for the opportunity this appeal provides to shed light on a system that has perpetrated gross injustices against loving and fully competent parents."