UPDATE: New “British shame” as tot removed from drunken parents

While here in Portugal children of visiting holidaymakers are removed in critical situations – but almost always returned to erring parents within days – the situation in Britain can be chillingly different.
“Sons and daughters can be removed from their parents for almost no reason at all,” a British-based children’s rights champion fighting to “save” five Portuguese children told us this week.
And as the drama played out over the baby girl in Albufeira – removed from her parents on Sunday night for alleged mistreatment – Portugal’s child rights campaigner Dr Luís Villas-Boas agreed that laws protecting children in Europe needed bringing in line.
“In Britain, if we had a case like the one here this week, the parents would never see the child again,” he said. “In Portugal, things aren’t anything like as tough.”
Villas-Boas was talking on the morning that Correio da Manhã alleged the parents – believed to be from Northern Ireland – had sedated the child and thrown her into a swimming pool at the Hotel Paraíso in Albufeira.
The Irish Mirror said only that the parents had been “drinking all day”, while the Irish Sun wrote: “Witnesses sounded the alarm after allegedly seeing the child’s mother staggering with the baby in her arms on an eighth-floor hotel balcony.
Cops acted after claims the mother was so drunk she was swaying back and forth.”
But on Tuesday Albufeira’s Commission for the Protection of Children and Minors (CPCJ) ruled that the baby could return home with her parents – to be monitored by social services in Northern Ireland.
CPCJ president Manuela Lima told reporters: “We have been evaluating and accompanying the situation, and as the parents are finishing their holiday, we consider it fundamental that this case should be followed up in the context of the parents’ home country.”
Lima guaranteed that British social services had been informed and that both parents were “conscious of the gravity of their actions and had shown themselves to be repentant”.
It is not the first time British, or indeed Irish, holidaymakers have lost children to the Portuguese authorities after being discovered allegedly drunk and disorderly.
“There have been five or six cases over the past 10 years,” Villas-Boas told us. “That is not a huge amount – not at all,” but the cases, nonetheless, focus media attention on the Algarve for all the wrong reasons.
In the summer of 2008, two cases of drunk and seemingly negligent British parents hit the headlines – but in both the children were returned to their parents, as has happened in this latest drama.
By NATASHA DONN [email protected]