Wiltshire County Council abandoned its application for a care order after a court heard that a boy was twice the age the parents had originally claimed.
The father originally came to the UK from Ghana in 2006, but later, in 2011, went back to Ghana to attend his mother’s funeral. He then brought his wife back to the UK with him, along with a boy they claimed was their son, called B in the case report. According to his passport and entry visa, the boy, called B in case reports, had been born in February 2006, making him then five years old.
However immigration officials and his teachers were concerned that he appeared to be older than his stated age. The boy was referred to a paediatrician who concluded that he was in fact probably aged over ten.
DNA testing then revealed that the couple were not in fact the boy’s parents.
At that point, the woman admitted the child was not hers. She said when her child, who was born in 2006, died, her mother-in-law encouraged her to take over care of her husband’s younger brother, who was a little older than her own child. She agreed to do this but the rest of the family was not informed, including the father she insisted.
Additional experts were consulted on the boy’s true age. A forensic odontologist examined the boy’s teeth and concluded that he was probably 15-16 years old. A paediatric endocrinologist meanwhile, said the boy was probably 14.
At this point the local authority abandoned its application for a care order and instead applied for a legal declaration of the child’s true age.
At the High Court, Mr Justice Baker concluded that the boy was 14 and said the couple had concocted all details of the boy’s background. He did not accept that the man had not been involved and said that although they had provided the boy with good physical care, their deception would have caused the boy “emotional harm”.
The couple had, said the judge “colluded between themselves and involved the child in an elaborate deception with the consequences that he is withdrawn, uncommunicative and has suffered emotional harm in their care.”
“For the last few years B has lived a lie …. It is imperative that his future life is based on the truth.”
Nevertheless, concluded Mr Justice Baker, it was in the boy’s best interests to stay with the couple, under a residence order and accompanying supervision order. This would, said the judge, be “the least interventionist order that meets B’s current needs”.