Social workers tore me from my babies for a year: Nightmare of innocent mother accused of harming sonFourteen police officers swooped on her house at 6am to take her childrenJudge blasts heavy-handed raid as he says family must be reunited
22:00 GMT, 14 December 2012
Devastation: Mother Kealy had her children taken away after being wrongly accused of cruelty
A loving mother had her children taken away from her in a dawn raid on her home after being wrongly accused of cruelty.
The three terrified youngsters watched as she was handcuffed before they were each put into separate cars and taken into foster care.
It took 19 months for the devastated family to be reunited – when a judge exonerated the parents and strongly criticised the social workers and police responsible for the appalling error.
Judge Nicholas Marston said social services, who had accused the parents of deliberately causing symptoms of illness in their disabled son, acted on claims ‘based on misunderstandings’ or which were ‘just plain wrong’.
The couple were wrongly alleged to have given 12-year-old Kane medicine to induce symptoms of digestive, nervous system and growth problems, as well as the fact he is on the autistic spectrum.
Social workers accused them of Fabricated or Induced Illness by carers (FII), also known as Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy.
The 6am police swoop, which involved 14 officers descending on a quiet Hampshire cul-de-sac, was described by the judge as ‘utterly disproportionate’ and ‘itself abusive of the children involved’.
The children’s father, who had left for work as an engineer at the time of the raid, was also later arrested on suspicion of neglect. Parents Kealey and Andy, who wish to keep the family surname secret, were never charged but say they have been ‘destroyed’ by the ordeal.
Kealey, 39, who had a nervous breakdown brought on by the arrest and has since suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, said: ‘I didn’t see my children for over a year. I wasn’t allowed to speak to them. It was torture.
‘You see mums crying when they wave their kids off on a school trip. There aren’t words to describe going a year without seeing your babies.
‘We are broken. The old me is gone. It is very hard for the children because they see a very different mum.’
Younger days: Kealy was alleged to have given Kane (right) medicine to induce symptoms of digestive, nervous system and growth problems
Although his parents have now regained full custody, Kane is voluntarily staying in foster and respite care because Kealey is currently too ill to care for him. Andy, 47, lost his job on his arrest and has since had to take up a new position abroad, meaning he gets to see the children only every three or four months.
He said: ‘Social services were more interested in proving we were wrong than giving Kane care.
‘They thought we had managed to convince 30 doctors over Kane’s lifetime. They said we had given him medicine to induce the problems, but he had the problems before he had the medicine so I don’t know how they worked that out.’
JUST WHAT IS MUNCHAUSEN'S
Munchausen's syndrome by proxy is a form of abuse in which a parent seeks medical attention for invented or faked symptoms of disease in their child.
In the most extreme cases, the parent will actually inflict harm on their child to support their claims.
The rare mental disorder is now also known as Fabricated or Induced Illness (FII). But there have been complaints from parents who have had their children seized after being wrongly accused of making them ill.
It has been suggested that Beverley Allitt, who was convicted of murdering four children and trying to kill nine others, showed symptoms of the disorder.
She injected some of her victims with insulin at a Lincolnshire hospital in the 1990s and received 13 life sentences for the crimes in 1993.
The arrests, in July 2010, were triggered after staff at Bursledon House specialist children’s centre in Southampton, where Kane was undergoing treatment, told social services that he was not showing all the symptoms his parents described and they concluded it was a case of FII.
Once in care, the children were unable to see or speak to their mother for a year and were allowed to see their father only on weekly three-hour supervised visits.
Kane was kept separately from his sisters Carris and Marly, then 14 and eight, for four months, before they were all sent to a foster family 60 miles from the family home in Farnborough, with a daily two-hour round trip to school.
Carris, who is now 16, had been predicted 14 A*s at GCSE, but left school with only two passes. She took herself out of care as soon as she turned 16 last summer and returned to her family.
At a four-week hearing at Portsmouth County Court in February, Judge Marston praised Kealey and Andy for being ‘caring, loving’ parents and criticised Hampshire County Council for failing to prove any of its claims.
In his judgment, he said: ‘What happened here is that a picture was painted before the facts were properly analysed, indeed before many of the facts were actually known, and then the facts were made to fit the picture.’
John Coughlan, Hampshire County Council’s director of children’s services, said that the council had acted with the ‘best motives’, adding: ‘It is our duty as a local authority to secure the wellbeing of children.’
Detective Superintendent Nigel Lecointe, head of the public protection department of Hampshire Constabulary, said he accepted his officers’ actions had been ‘perceived to be heavy-handed’ and ‘had a significant long-term effect on the family’.