A British couple has been told by the High Court they are free to adopt an 18 year old Nigerian boy.
In Re B, the boy had been living with the couple since early 2009 after being brought to the UK by a man calling himself an uncle in 2008.
Mrs Justice Theis noted that the ‘uncle’ was not related to the boy, called ‘B’ in court documents, but had promised him “a better way of life” in England and secured a six-month visa which was not extended.
B ran away from the uncle after allegedly suffering emotional and physical abuse.
Through a chance encounter with someone he met in a park, B was introduced to the people who would become his foster carers, ‘Mr and Mrs A’.
In order to continue in their care of B, Mr and Mrs A applied to the Home Office to keep him in the country, but it was refused.
Mr and Mrs A persisted in their efforts to remain B’s official carers, yet the Home Office did not respond to the ongoing legal developments in any meaningful way despite requests from the family’s lawyers and the court.
As a result, hearings were delayed several times.
Another issue the judge had to consider in this case was B’s age. His birth certificate put his birth date in 1995, whereas the passport he was brought to the UK on indicated it was 1987.
According to the rules set out in the Adoption and Children Act (ACA) of 2002, an adoption order can only be made if the child in question is under the age of 18 when the application is submitted.
This meant that if B’s date of birth was ruled to be in 1987, he would have been too old for an adoption order to be considered.
With those issues in mind, Mrs Justice Theis said she had three questions to answer:
- Should the case proceed without the involvement of the Home Office?
- Should a declaration be made with regard to B’s age?
- If it is judged that he was his claimed age, should the adoption order be allowed?
The judge ruled that the case should proceed with no further delay, saying she was satisfied the family’s lawyers could not have done more to engage the Home Office, noting that the efforts had been “met by a deafening silence”.
She also went on to point out that if an adoption order was to be made, it would confer British citizenship on B, which would clear up any immigration issues.
With regard to B’s age, Mrs Justice Theis was satisfied that he was born in 1995.
She came to this conclusion given evidence of his physical growth in the time he was living with Mr and Mrs A and the fact that he attended high school with nobody raising the possibility that he was seven or eight years older than stated.
The judge also noted that the uncle who brought him to the UK in the first place had an incentive to claim B was older than he was: traveling with an adult would raise far less attention than traveling with a minor.
Mrs Justice Theis declared that she had no doubt B had a secure relationship with Mr and Mrs A and their children, and that B’s lifelong welfare could only be met by an adoption order.