WHEN Rachel celebrated her daughters third birthday three weeks ago the little girl was a picture of happiness. Yet for her mother it was a bittersweet occasion.
Rachel had to squeeze in the celebrations with family court hearings in the morning and the afternoon. The judge was to decide whether to reduce Rachels contact with her daughter in the run-up to her adoption in three months time.
The verdict came back days later. The judge said I should have my contact with my daughter reduced from once a fortnight to once a month, with the amount of time going down from an hour-and-a-half to just five minutes, said Rachel.
Then, when she is with the adoptive family, that will be it. I will never see her again.
The 24-year-old single mother has never been accused of physically or emotionally harming her daughter, who for legal reasons can be referred to only as K. Even those set on taking her away concede that she harbours nothing but love for the girl.
She has been denied the right to keep her only child because she has been deemed to be mentally incapable of caring for her. She is simply too stupid, it was decided.
Rachel protested and secured a solicitor to give her a voice in the family court. But by the time of the crucial placement hearing her pleas had been silenced. This was because her stupidity had been used as a means to deny her something else: the right to instruct a lawyer.
Instead, the official solicitor was brought in to speak for Rachel. Alastair Pitblado, the government-funded official, is appointed by the courts to represent the interests of those who cannot make their own case, such as mentally incapacitated people.
In Rachels case it was decided that her interests were best served by agreeing with Nottingham city councils application to have her daughter adopted.
Rachels protests over her treatment were dismissed. The official solicitor had acted entirely properly in capitulating to the council since Rachels case was unarguable, the Court of Appeal ruled.
The decisions of the family court and the appeal court relied upon reports drawn up by a psychologist whose verdict that Rachel had low intelligence and learning disabilities had led to K being put up for adoption and the appointment of the official solicitor.