The High Court has ruled that the future of a 12 year-old girl should not be decided by the Romanian authorities.
The girl in question, identified as ‘L’ in the judgment, was born in Romania. She was the youngest of 12 siblings whose mother died in 2013. Her father placed L in the care of another couple and signed a declaration which allowed them to take her to the UK. Upon their arrival in the country, the couple informed Hertfordshire social services that they were looking after a child who was not theirs because she had lost her mother and her father could not afford to care for her.
During the local authority’s assessment of L’s living situation, they discovered that her older sisters made accusations of sexual abuse against their father back in Romania. L made similar allegations to the couple looking after her.
As the alleged abuse took place in Romania, the English police did not pursue the matter. However, when L’s father came to England in an attempt “to remove L [from the country] by force”, they intervened to prevent him and a police protection order was made.
Before leaving the country a few days later, the father alleged that the couple looking after L were not providing adequate care for her. In response, Hertfordshire County Council launched an investigation under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989. This allows a local authority to make necessary enquiries “to enable them to decide whether they should take any action to safeguard” the welfare of a child subject to a police protection order.
If the council were to take action, they would need to establish that they had jurisdiction. The father wanted L to return to Romania so her case could be decided in his home country. L strongly objected to a return and expressed a clear desire to remain in England with the couple who brought her into the country. She affectionately referred to them as “mum” and “dad”, and had made friends at her local church and at school.
Sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Ms Justice Russell ruled that L had established legal or “habitual residence” in England so therefore her case should be handled by the English courts. A transfer of jurisdiction to Romania would not be in L’s best interests as there was nowhere safe for her to stay there.
To read Re L (A Child) (Jurisdiction: Private Fostering), click here.
Photo of the Romanian flag by Dan Nevill via Flickr