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Summary Return

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  • The mother applied for the summary return of three children from Wales, where they lived with the father, to the Republic of Ireland. A fourth child lived with the mother. During a period of homelessness, the mother had asked the father to care for the four children on a temporary basis in his home in Wales. Upon her finding accommodation, the father had declined to return them, and she had collected the youngest from his school and taken him back to Ireland. The court had to determine: the nature of the agreement between the parents; whether the father had wrongfully retained the children; whether the children had been habitually resident in the Republic of Ireland; whether an article 13 exception had been established; and, if it had, whether the court should exercise its discretion not to order the children's return. Nigel Poole QC, sitting as a deputy High Court judge, concluded that the evidence did not establish that the mother had secured suitable accommodation by the given time. He was not satisfied that the father was guilty of wrongful retention of the children at any point prior to the application being made, and so the Convention and Regulations could not assist the mother in her application for summary return. The children's time in Ireland had been chaotic and peripatetic; they remained habitually resident in the United Kingdom throughout. The defence under Article 13(b) was made out: they should not be expected to tolerate returning to Ireland without the reassurance of stability and security. Had he found that there had been a wrongful retention, he would have had no hesitation in exercising his discretion so as to refuse return. The mother's application for summary return was dismissed. Judgment, 24/06/2020, free
  • The father applied under the Child Abduction and Custody Act 1985 for a summary return order pursuant to the provisions of the 1980 Hague Convention, in respect of two children, aged seven and four. The children were born in Belgium and had always lived there until being taken by both parents to Spain for six weeks, and then to England by the mother, in the company of a new acquaintance with multiple convictions. The move to Spain, it was suggested, had been to prevent the Belgian social care authorities from undertaking safeguarding interventions. However, the Belgian authorities informed the court that they would not be taking any active steps towards the return of the children to Belgium, and that in their view the children should be with the mother. The local authority had completed a parenting assessment of the mother which concluded that she was unable to care safely for the children. The father had been accused of domestic abuse, and though in England at the time had failed to attend assessment sessions due to drug use. The children were now in foster care, and in regular contact with the mother. MacDonald J found that the exception under Article 13(b) of the 1980 Convention was made out. There was no evidence before the court to confirm who would take custody of the children upon arrival in Belgium, what arrangements would be made for their care, or how contact with their mother would be facilitated. Ordering their return to Belgium would place them in an intolerable situation for the purposes of Article 13(b). The father's application was dismissed. Judgment, 14/06/2020, free
  • The father applied for a summary inward return order in respect of a boy, one of three children, who was taken by the mother to both parents' native country of Sierra Leone and left there with her family. The mother cross-applied for an order permitting her retrospectively to relocate the boy. Mostyn J was also asked to make child arrangements orders regulating contact between the father and all three children. The father had not seen any of the children for three years. The mother alleged domestic abuse, and that the son had been involved in South London gang culture. The Cafcass officer recorded that the boy's emphatic wish was to remain in Sierra Leone until his education to GCSE level was complete. Mostyn J stated that the wishes of a Gillick-competent child on a particular issue, where they are not objectively foolish or unreasonable, should normally be given effect, and he was not satisfied that the child's wishes in this case were objectively foolish or unreasonable. The father's application for summary return was dismissed and the mother's application was granted. There would be supervised contact with the children, virtual at first, given the coronavirus, with the sessions recorded and the mother at liberty to stop them if the children became distressed. Mostyn J also commented on various procedural aspects of the case. Judgment, 18/05/2020, free
  • The daughter and both parents were British citizens. The mother had returned to England with the daughter, telling the father that it was for a short break. The father sought the daughter's summary return to Lanzarote in Spain, where he lived. The mother opposed the application on the grounds that the child objected to returning to Lanzarote, and that there was a grave risk that a return would, as per Article 13(b) of the 1980 Hague Convention, cause physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation. The CAFCASS Officer told the court that the child was very firm in her view that she would not wish to return to Lanzarote without her mother. Mr David Rees QC found that the child was objecting in Hague Convention terms to the return, and he was satisfied that he should exercise the discretion not to return her. Also, if the child returned alone, the father would not be in a position to both support her financially and provide care for her, and thus the objection under Article 13(b) was also made out. The application was dismissed and the child would remain in England and Wales. Judgment, 17/03/2020, free
  • A four-year-old girl with British citizenship had been taken to Egypt, and the court had to determine whether she had been habitually resident in England and Wales before then and thus wrongfully removed, and, if she had not, whether the court had jurisdiction to order her summary return. The father contended that the removal was pursuant to the terms of an order made in Beirut. Both parents were Lebanese nationals, and both were currently in England, the child having been left with family members of the father. The mother had accused the father of domestic violence. MacDonald J was satisfied that the child had been habitually resident in this jurisdiction, and that the court retained jurisdiction under the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court. The daughter was a British citizen and both parents were here and intended to remain here, making this the appropriate forum for determining the welfare issues. Returning the daughter from Egypt would create the best chance of her resuming contact with her mother, and there was no one in Egypt with parental responsibility for her. She should be returned from Egypt. The existence of the Beirut order did not prevent this. Judgment, 17/03/2020, free

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