The eight year-old son of Lithuanian drug users should live with his grandmother, the Family Court has ruled.
The boy, ‘E’, moved to the UK in 2008 with his mother. His father had arrived in the country one year earlier. Both parents had “a significant history of heroin and cocaine use”, which resulted in several arrests and occasional stints in prison. After the mother’s arrest in November 2011, E had been found “living in a store cupboard” while in the care of his father.
Subsequently, E was taken into police protection and then placed in foster care by the London Borough of Redbridge. The local authority found the boy’s paternal grandmother in Lithuania and carried out an assessment of her as a carer. They concluded that she was “an appropriate placement for this child” and applied for a special guardianship order to make her E’s legal guardian.
As the case involved a Lithuanian family, the local authority notified the Baltic state’s embassy of the proceedings. The embassy responded that it was “in the child’s interests for a court in Lithuania to assume jurisdiction”. They requested that the case be transferred to a Lithuanian court under Brussels II Revised – an EU regulation which defines jurisdiction in family law disputes between European countries.
Article 15 of this regulation sets out the circumstances in which a court can transfer a case to another member state.
At the East London Family Court, Her Honour Judge Atkinson noted that E did have “a particular connection” to Lithuania – one of the requirements for such a transfer. However, she also had to decide whether the other country would be better suited to hear the case, and if such a transfer would be in the best interests of the child.
The judge said that the case had been dealt with in England for several years and a transfer would cause a significant delay. She agreed with the local authority’s assessment that this would be “contrary to [E’s] welfare” so refused the embassy’s request.
Despite this refusal, Judge Atkinson ruled that E should live with his grandmother in Lithuania and therefore made a special guardianship order in her favour.
Redbridge v S (article 15 transfer) is available in full online. To read it, click here.