An 11 year-old boy must be sent back to Eastern Europe, the High Court has declared.
The boy, ‘A’, was born in Poland and lived there with his parents until their divorce in 2011. A family court ruled that he and his older sister should remain with their mother, while vising their father. The couple had drifted apart after the father began spending long periods in Germany for work.
Not long after the divorce, the mother found work abroad herself, spending a period in Italy. By the time that came to a close, her relationship with her daughter – A’s older sister – had begun to fray.
Meanwhile, the children were continuing to see their father. He described the visits as regular while she insisted he was preoccupied and didn’t see the children often.
Then in June last year his mother brought A to England with her. The father promptly applied for his return, under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
A Cafcass officer was appointed to interview A and assess his view of the conflict between his parents. In the High Court, His Honour Judge Booth noted:
“It was very clear from a number of the answers that A gave that he was giving [the Cafcass officer] his mother’s version of events. There may be any number of reasons why that was the case, but it has the effect that I can place little reliance, if any, on what A says about his time at home.”
But the officer remarked that at no point did A during the interview clearly object to being returned to his father in Poland.
The evidence suggested, the Judge continued, that the mother did not respect the father’s role.
“…it is clear that A’s mother decided that she was entitled to make unilateral decisions about A irrespective of whether his father agreed with those decisions. So, for example, it is clear that A’s schooling was in her view something that A’s father was not entitled to be consulted about. She gave notice to A’s school without reference to A’s father.”
In a letter written by A’s mother to the Polish Divorce Court, she openly admitted that his father had not consented to her taking A to England with her.
As she was aware of the father’s likely objections to many of her decisions about A, Judge Booth concluded:
“…I must conclude that she was engineering a situation where A’s father would not be able to raise an objection because A would have gone.”
Her account of the amount of time A’s father had spent with him could not be relied upon, he continued.
A had lived in Poland his entire life. He had not settled in England in any meaningful sense because he could not speak English and had barely seen his father since his arrival.
Therefore, declared Judge Booth, there was no legal basis of overturning the father’s Hague Convention application and allowing A to remain in the UK. The boy had clearly been abducted by his mother and his return to Poland was “inevitable”.
Polish courts would be much better placed to rule on A’s future, explained the Judge.
“…it does strike me that the question of where A’s future should be, whether it is in this country, or in Poland, would be far better determined by the Polish Court, the Court that made an order when his parents divorced, the Court that is local to his family, and the Court that can investigate his circumstances in Poland in a way that this Court simply cannot do.”
Read the ruling here.