On 7 October 2015 Karissa Cox and Richard Carter were exonerated by Guilford Crown Court when the prosecution offered no evidence regarding charges of causing injuries to their 6 week old baby in April 2012. Medical evidence within the criminal trial in 2015 showed the baby to have been suffering from Von Willebrands II, a blood disorder which causes someone to bruise more easily and that the baby was severely vitamin D deficient at 5 days old. Vitamin D deficiency can cause bones to break or fracture more easily.
The baby has, however, already been adopted and current law disallows the reversal of an Adoption Order.
Lydia Berry, Senior Associate within the childcare department comments:
“This case raises a number of questions within this case and within family law in general:
- Why was an irreversible adoption order granted before the conclusion of the criminal proceedings?
- How was the issue of medical evidence overlooked within the family proceedings?
- Has this situation come about partly as a result of the Government’s push to speed up care proceedings?
- Should parents be afforded state-funded representation at all stages in care and adoption proceedings?
In relation to the last point, Lydia Berry is currently representing the child in a highly publicised case before the President of the Family Division where the President is addressing this issue of legal aid:
Full Judgment of the President: D (A Child)  EWFC 39
At present, an application by a Local Authority for a care order allows parents of whatever means state-funded legal aid. To place a child with prospective adopters, the Local Authority then require a placement order and, following the placement of the child within their care, the prospective adopters later apply for an Adoption Order. The placement and adoption order stages are means and merits tested and therefore if parents earn over the threshold (currently £2657 per month with a disposable income below £733 per month), they will have to pay to be represented by a solicitor or barrister. If they cannot afford this, they have to represent themselves. The Local Authority and child(ren) are, however, state-funded within these stages and are therefore represented by solicitors, barristers and possibly even Queens’ Counsel (QC). The President highlights the inequality of arms in such situations within the judgment and the case, and the issue of legal aid inequality continues.
This is sadly only one of undoubtedly a number where such injustices have occurred with, in this particular case and within current law, an irreversible conclusion. The couple plan to try to appeal the making of the Adoption Order and, if unsuccessful, will have to lobby the Government for a change in the law to allow for the reversal of an Adoption Order."