The Bramley Affair: The Courts - Mrs Justice Hogg, mother of two, faces agonising task

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FOR THE moment, at least, Jeff and Jenny Bramley will be allowed to look after their foster daughters.

This morning the courts will start the long and arduous task of deciding what is best for the girls' long-term future. The meeting, attended by lawyers for both the Bramleys and Cambridgeshire social services as well as the Official Solicitor, who has been appointed to represent the girls' interests, is expected to take place in chambers at the High Court in London. Mrs Justice Hogg will preside over the hearing.

A further hearing, expected to be heard in open court, is due to take place tomorrow.

The final decision on whether the Bramleys will be able to adopt Jade and Hannah is unlikely to be reached for several months.

"These are agonising decisions and I don't envy the judge who is going to have to make them in the end," said the Home Office minister Lord Williams of Mostyn yesterday.

That judge is herself the mother of two children. Mrs Justice Hogg, a High Court judge in the Family Division since 1995, and her husband, Eric Koops, a financial consultant, have a son and daughter, both aged under 10.

Her feelings as a mother prompted her to issue an appeal last November for the Bramleys to return Jade and Hannah, saying she was "very worried for their safety and well-being".

The High Court tipstaff said at the time he had never heard of a similar plea from a judge and that, although acting in a judicial capacity, Mrs Justice Hogg was "concerned as a mother" about Jade and Hannah.

Although Cambridgeshire social services said last week it was happy to let the courts decide the future of the girls, a spokesman yesterday confirmed that the department would still object to the couple becoming the girls' adoptive parents.

The authority has argued that while their staff realise that Mr and Mrs Bramley love the girls they have now looked after for 10 months, social workers believe they are "unsuitable" parents, partly because they have been too strict.

"When the court comes to decide the future of the girls, we will put our side - we have always said that. Our position has not changed from what it was in September," said the council's spokesman, Bob Pearson.

"We have said they can stay together in the short term. We have no objection to that as long as it is clear that the girls are all right."