NI woman loses legal fight to regain contact with adopted autistic son

The High Court in Belfast
The High Court in Belfast

A Northern Ireland woman has lost a High Court battle to regain contact with an autistic son freed for adoption 14 years ago.

Rejecting her legal bid to be sent an annual letter and photograph, a judge ruled that if the boy was to be identified it could threaten the life built with his new parents.



Mr Justice O’Hara said: “Even limited indirect contact is potentially disruptive and unsettling.”

The woman, referred to as Ms BB, had three children freed for adoption in 2002.

Her two youngest were placed with one couple while the oldest, now aged 17 and known only as P, went to another family.

In an understanding reached in 2004 she was to be sent a card every Christmas, and a letter and photograph of the boy at Easter.

She was allowed to send letters, cards or presents through the Northern Ireland Family Care Society, with P’s new parents deciding whether to share them with him.

Ms BB was never told the identity of the couple who have now been the boy’s mother and father for more than a decade.

However, it was up to them to decide if indirect contact continued or developed.

Since December 2005 Ms BB has only received one card – sent in 2008.

Contact with her other two children also stopped in 2010, although she has subsequently re-established it on an indirect basis.

The woman applied to the High Court in an attempt to secure a similar outcome with P.

Her lawyers argued that indirect contact approved at the time of adoption should continue unless there is evidence it would be damaging to the boy.

But P’s new parents contended that because of his conditions, including autism and moderate learning difficulties, he needs structure and order in his life.

The court heard he has difficulty understanding anything about his past, despite knowing he is adopted.

It was claimed that he showed no interest in cards or letters from his birth mother.

Characterising Ms BB’s application as stressful and intrusive, the parents also raised a concern that she could recognise P if photographs were updated annually.

During proceedings the woman confirmed she was seeking a letter with a photo at least every Easter.

In a judgment delivered last year but only published on Tuesday, Mr Justice O’Hara set out how she had insisted: “They’re not my son’s parents, I am.”

She also asserted that P that may have autism and ADHD because “he is not getting what he is entitled to get”.

Refusing to make any order for contact, the judge held that the adoptive parents had the boy’s best interests in mind.

He also concluded: “The applicant’s oral evidence and her dismissive rejection of the position of the parents suggest to me that she has never come to terms with the adoption and that the parents are legitimately concerned about her actions.

“If P was to be identified from any photograph sent to the applicant there would in my opinion be a real threat to P’s life with his parents from the applicant.”