Leeds City Council cleared in prison baby 'prop feeding' appeal

Leeds social services bosses have been exonerated on appeal after they were slammed by a judge for separating a young baby from her imprisoned mother because of concerns over her feeding technique.

A Leeds County Court judge ruled last year that taking the little girl away from her mum was "disproportionate and unjustifed", despite a social worker's anxiety that the mother was endangering her three-month-old baby by "prop-feeding" her in Wakefield Prison.

The judge's ruling – in which she accused the council of "effectively usurping" the authority of the court – opened the way for the mother to mount a damages claim against Leeds for alleged violations of her human rights. But now that threat has been lifted by Appeal Court judges, who cleared the "courageous" social worker of any wrong-doing.

Top family judge Sir Nicholas Wall said prop-feeding babies is "potentially dangerous."

"This is a classic case of a social worker who is damned if she does, and could equally have been damned if the did not", he told the court.

The council's QC had earlier said it was always the council's intention to reunite mother and baby, following an assessment of the mother's feeding practice.

However, the council then found itself in a cleft stick after the prison authorities said the baby girl was unable to return to her mum, because she had been moved out of the specialist mother and baby unit and she had "lost her place" there.

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