The Court of Appeal has upheld the role of the English courts in a care case involving a child born to Czech parents.
In the Nottingham City Council v LM and others, the 19 month-old toddler was born from a relationship between a 17 year-old mother, referred to as ‘LM’ in case reports, and her stepfather. The family had been living in the UK since 2004.
The local authority began proceedings in August 2012. The boy, called ‘M’, was taken into care, and he has lived with foster carers ever since. The stepfather’s two children with M’s grandmother were also taken into care.
During subsequent care proceedings, LM and her family left the UK and returned to the Czech Republic. She has since given birth to a second child with her stepfather.
At a fact-finding hearing back in the English courts, Mr Justice Mostyn described LM’s relationship with her stepfather as “a toxic mixture of love, hatred, domination and submission”.
He directed the relevant authority in the Czech Republic to assume responsibility for the case, under Article 15 of Brussels II Revised, an EU regulation which governs jurisdiction in family law cases involving more than one member state.
Article 15 states:
“… the courts of a Member State having jurisdiction as to the substance of the matter may, if they consider that a court of another Member State, with which the child has a particular connection, would be better placed to hear the case, or a specific part thereof, and where this is in the best interests of the child……
(b) request a court of another Member State to assume jurisdiction”.
Mr Justice Mostyn said the Article meant that in child protection cases, courts in other countries should rule on the future of their own nationals “all other things being equal”.
Nottingham City Council and the children’s legal guardian successfully appealed.
Sir James Munby, along with Lord Justices Lewison and Ryder, said the ruling had been an “impermissible legal policy gloss”. The case had been handled entirely in the English courts up to that point, and so they were in a better position to make decisions regarding M’s future.