The Court of Appeal has reversed an earlier decision on whether the English courts had legal authority over a five year old girl born in Sweden.
In B (A Child), the girl and her mother came to England from Sweden for a brief period last year. During their stay, the local authority applied to begin care proceedings, although they accepted that the girl’s ‘habitual residence’ (usual place of residence) was in fact Sweden.
The mother claimed the English courts did not have the necessary jurisdiction (legal authority) to make more than short-term rulings about the girl’s welfare, while the local authority, the child’s guardian and the her father all argued that the courts did in fact hold jurisdiction.
In June this year, the High Court ruled in their favour, declaring the English courts did have the authority to rule on the child’s welfare and protection.
The mother successfully appealed. Lord Justice McFarlane, Lady Justice Gloster and Lord Justice Floyd concluded that the original judgement had been largely based on interactions with the judiciary in Sweden and responses received were interpreted as meaning the Swedish courts declined jurisdiction in the case.
Questions regarding jurisdiction were “wholly inappropriate”, the Lord Justices declared, and any legal decisions had been made in such a way would have been a breach of the mother’s ‘right to a fair trial’ under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Under the EU regulation Brussels II Revised, the English courts actually had no jurisdiction in the case.