English courts to rule on boy in foster care in Ireland

Supreme Court says it has no jurisdiction in relation to parental responsibility issues

The Supreme Court has ruled that it is for the English courts to decide whether a young boy (11) said to be doing well in foster care here should stay here pending a decision by the English courts on his future care needs.

The Supreme Court has ruled that it is for the English courts to decide whether a young boy (11) said to be doing well in foster care here should stay here pending a decision by the English courts on his future care needs.

Fri, Jul 18, 2014, 01:13

The Supreme Court has ruled that it is for the English courts to decide whether a young boy said to be doing well in foster care here should stay here pending a decision by the English courts on his future care needs.

The mother of the boy (11) claimed they fled England last January to get away from her violent partner, the boy’s father, and sought to have the child stay here pending decisions on his future care by the English courts.

The Child and Family Agency argued that the English courts had jurisdiction in the matter. Felix McEnroy SC, for the agency, said it considered the quality of the relationship between the mother and her son was not “heartily articulated” in earlier childcare proceedings concerning him in Britain and he wanted to be able to put certain matters before the English courts.

Yesterday, a three-judge Supreme Court dismissed the mother’s appeal against a High Court declaration, under article 17 of a 2003 European Council regulation concerning decisions relating to parental responsibility, that the Irish courts had no jurisdiction in relation to parental responsibility issues concerning this boy. His habitual residence, the High Court found, was England.

However, the Supreme Court has adjourned for one week the mother’s appeal against the order directing the boy’s return to Britain while the English courts determine the childcare issues.

Best interests

The adjournment is to allow for the English courts to decide, given the boy’s present circumstances, whether it is in his best interests to remain here or go back to England, until his care issues were determined there.

The court stressed to the mother, who had represented herself, the importance of her being involved in the English court proceedings and said she should instruct lawyers.

She would be legally aided in both jurisdictions and the Child and Family Agency would assist her in attending the English proceedings, it noted. Mr Justice Donal O’Donnell, presiding, sitting with Mr Justice Liam McKechnie and Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, said it would give its reasons in a written judgment later.

Earlier, the court heard the boy was subject of care orders, to which his mother has consented, he was doing well in foster care and was attending school here. His mother hoped he would eventually be returned to her care and had been praised by the High Court here for her supportive dealings with him, his foster carer and social workers.

Social workers’ concerns

A core issue in relation to whether the boy is returned to his mother centres on whether or not she is in a relationship with the boy’s father. The woman insists she is not but the court heard social workers have concerns in that regard.

The mother also denied any wrongful removal of her son from England. The boy was previously in foster care in England after being assessed as in very poor condition and was out of school for a year, but at the time they came here last January, he had been returned to his mother’s care, the court heard.

The mother said she and her son both wanted to stay here for reasons including she was afraid of his father, who had criminal convictions, and she believed he would harass them. He had come to Ireland and tried to kidnap her and her son but was now back in Britain, she said.

Her son had written to the High Court saying he did not want to return to England, she said. He was doing well here, attending school and has joined a sports team. “He is a kind boy and has bought me chocolates for my birthday,” she added.

She agreed she had in court documents previously denied experiencing any violence from her partner but said she did so because she was afraid. “I am 5ft, he is 5ft 11in, I can’t defend myself. He has threatened to destroy me.”

She did her best to adhere to a November 2013 agreement with the English social services to keep away from her son’s father but he persisted in trying to see her and that led to her decision to take her son to Ireland, she added.