Court-forced Caesareans to be contested

Lawyers go to the Family Court Division on Tuesday to challenge the power of judges to order forced Caesareans on pregnant women.

Leigh Day & Co solicitor Richard Stein and 12 Gray's Inn Square barrister Barbara Hewson, representing an unnamed woman who underwent a court-ordered Caesarean, will be asking for application for leave for a judicial review.

Under the Mental Health Act if the court decides a woman is mentally incompetent it can order a Caesarean.

But critics say family court judges are often under pressure to make hurried decisions and the women are unaware until the last moment that legal action is being taken by medical authorities and hence are unable to put their case.

“Our main concern is these are matters are being dealt with in a great hurry, ex-parte and in chambers,” said Stein. “There are very complicated ethical and legal issues here.

“What I am keen to get is some clear guidance from the Court of Appeal for judges,” he said. Stein, like other lawyers, is also concerned at the exact role of the Official Solicitor in half-a-dozen cases of this type in the last seven years.

Some lawyers have gone further, suggesting the Official Solicitor, who is in court as amicus curiae, has not opposed and has even encouraged court intervention even though many of the woman involved have been unrepresented.