Teenage prisoner fights ruling to take her 'at risk' baby

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The Independent Online

A teenage woman prisoner is to be separated from her week-old baby daughter after a committee decided yesterday that the child was "at risk" and should be taken into care.

A teenage woman prisoner is to be separated from her week-old baby daughter after a committee decided yesterday that the child was "at risk" and should be taken into care.

The news will come as a devastating blow to the 18-year-old remand prisoner who is fighting a legal battle to be allowed to keep her child. Mother and daughter are in the Whittington Hospital, north London, where the baby was born.

The woman could be returned to Holloway prison, north London, possibly tomorrow, and her baby, who has been on a course of antibiotics, is to be cared for by social services.

Yesterday's decision by an Area Child Protection Committee in Brent, north London, followed discussion of the case by health and social workers, probation staff and police. The committee concluded the child should be on the "at risk" register and be taken into care.

Tomorrow the admissions board for the Holloway mother and baby unit will consider the committee's finding and is almost certain to uphold its earlier decision to deny her a place.

The Prison Service believes the risk to the baby is such that it would require a level of supervision which cannot be guaranteed in prison.

The prisoner, who has been identified only as "L", is to have an appeal heard in the High Court today. Her solicitor, Mike Tait, said he had sought bail for his client, who is accused of robbery and attempted robbery.

Mr Tait said the committee's decision should not automatically bar his client from a place in the Holloway unit. He said: "The hospital have no concerns over the way she has cared for her baby despite the extraordinary circumstances of having two or three prison officers present at all times. When I left her she was breast-feeding but very distressed."

Last year a 24-year-old Holloway prisoner was offered a place on the mother-and-baby unit at Styal prison in Cheshire after a legal challenge to the decision to deny her a place on the unit in the London jail.

The woman, a former psychology student, had won the right to challenge the decision in the Court of Appeal.