12:43PM, Friday 06 December 2019
Oxford County Court. Image by Google
A Maidenhead couple have been awarded thousands of pounds in damages following a legal discrimination battle with the Royal Borough's adoption service.
Sandeep and Reena Mander, both in their thirties, attempted to join an adoption register in 2015 after they were unable to have a child of their own.
The pair had expressed a desire to adopt a child of any race, with a preference for someone under three years old and with ‘simple needs’.
But the couple claimed their application was rejected due to their Indian heritage, despite both being British nationals since birth and identifying as British.
The couple's discrimination case was heard at Oxford County Court in November this year.
The court heard how, after the Manders’ application to be put on adoption agency Adopt Berkshire’s register was ‘deferred’, they received a letter stating they should try adopting a child from India or Pakistan.
Adopt Berkshire has now been disbanded.
In a judgement released today (Friday) judge Melissa Clarke said that Mr and Mrs Mander were 'discriminated against on the grounds of race'.
The couple were awarded £60,013.14 in 'special damages'. They were awarded £18,000 each in 'general damages', which 'should' be subject to an increase for inflation, as well as a '10 per cent uplift'.
The exact figure for general damages was not given in the judgement.
Judge Clarke said: "I consider that Mr and Mrs Mander were particularly vulnerable, being a childless couple who had gone through numerous rounds of IVF and a sad early pregnancy loss, and were seeking adoption to create their family."
In a statement released after the judgement, Mr and Mrs Mander said: “This decision ensures that no matter what race, religion or colour you are, you should be treated equally and assessed for adoption in the same way as any other prospective adopter."
The couple said that 'cultural values and beliefs is just one of the many areas that should be assessed when looking at the suitability of adopters', but it should 'never be the overriding factor to stop you even being considered'.
They added: "We felt there needed to be a change. This is what this case has all been about for us, to ensure discrimination like this doesn’t happen to others wishing to do this wonderful thing called adoption.
"And today’s landmark ruling will ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
A spokesperson from the Royal Borough said: “We are very disappointed by the judgement in this case, which we will now take time to consider in full.
"We have reviewed our policies to ensure they are fit for purpose and are confident that we do not exclude prospective adopters on the grounds of ethnicity.
"Finally, we always put the best interests of the children at the heart of any adoption decisions and are committed to best practice in our provision of adoption services.”
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