Couple sue council over 'uncontrollable' adopted son

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The Independent Online

A couple who claim their adopted son was so emotionally disturbed that he made their life unbearable sued their local authority adoption agency for damages yesterday.

A couple who claim their adopted son was so emotionally disturbed that he made their life unbearable sued their local authority adoption agency for damages yesterday.

The couple accused Essex County Council of negligence in failing to disclose reports indicating that the boy was "uncontrollable and vicious" and that his behaviour would be "beyond the wildest imagination" of inexperienced adopters.

A High Court judge in London heard that, in the words of his adoptive father, the boy went "off the Richter scale" and attacked other children on a bouncy castle at his seventh birthday party.

When the mother became pregnant, he threatened to kill the unborn child on several occasions and attacked her during a Greek island holiday, leading to her spending several days in hospital.

The boy, now aged 12, was five years old at the time of his initial placement with the couple in 1996. He was later diagnosed as suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Since 1999, he has been under medication in special needs care.

Gavin Millar QC, for the couple – who cannot be named for legal reasons – told Mr Justice Buckley they were seeking damages for personal injuries, mainly depression caused by the adoption and by their isolation from friends and relatives through having the boy in their family, as well as loss of earnings and the cost of damage to their home caused by the boy.

The council, which now cares for the boy in a residential home, argues that a percentage of adoptions will break down without fault on anyone's part. It denies that the couple have suffered psychiatric injury as opposed to merely being made "unhappy", and argues that the council could not have foreseen what happened.

The judge heard how the boy and his sister, then aged three, were placed with the couple in February 1996 and fully adopted in May 1997. The couple were not informed of the warning given to the council's adoption panel by a woman who had fostered the children in the past. They claim that they should have been fully informed. The hearing continues.