A family law judge has ordered the immediate return of two children to their mother in Germany.
In C v B, a father had taken his young children, aged six and four and half, on a two week visit to Britain but did they not return.
The mother started proceedings in a German court, which agreed with her claim that her children were habitually resident in Germany.
The father, meanwhile, challenged the decision in a German Appeals Court but failed to get the original decision overturned.
The mother then applied to the High Court in London for her children to be returned to Germany.
Sir Paul Coleridge said his hands were “99 per cent tied” by the fact that the German Courts had already ruled on this case. Despite this, he heard the father’s arguments against his children’s return.
The first argument the father put forward was that the mother had, in fact, given consent for him to take the children to England indefinitely. He cited the fact that the mother did not begin legal proceedings until six months after she learned he would not return.
Sir Paul said that as the German court had already ruled on this argument there was little he could do, but added that he was not satisfied the father’s evidence demonstrated the mother’s consent.
The father’s second argument was that his children were opposed to a return to Germany, which the judge said was “not at all easy to establish, especially with children of this age”.
An officer of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) said the youngest child “did not have the faintest idea what he was being asked about” when interviewed about returning to Germany, although the eldest “forcefully” objected.
Despite these objections, the judge ruled that the eldest child was not old enough for them to be given any weight.
The father’s final argument was that the children would suffer “grave psychological or other harm” if they were to be returned, but Sir Paul ruled that the evidence the father presented did not meet the required standard to be properly considered.
The judge declared that even if the German court had not already ruled on this case, he would still support the return of the children to their mother.
He added that a “prolonged handover” of the children could harm them, so despite it being “a brutal process”, he ordered that the mother could collect the children on the following Saturday and return them to their home in Germany the next day.