Child brought to Northern Ireland without father's consent to return to Switzerland, court rules

The high court in Belfast
The high court has ruled that the six-year-old should be returned to Switzerland, having been brought to Northern Ireland without the consent of his father.

A six-year-old boy brought to Northern Ireland without his father’s consent should be returned to Switzerland, a High Court judge has ruled.

Mr Justice Kinney held that the child’s mother unlawfully removed him in breach of her ex-husband’s custody rights.

“He simply did not know where (she) had gone with his son until she was seen at a church in Northern Ireland shortly before he initiated proceedings,” the judge said.

Legal action was launched after the woman left Switzerland with their child on Christmas Eve 20021.

Under the terms of a divorce obtained two years previously, she had custody of the boy but her former husband retained visitation rights.

Neither parent can be named to protect the identity of their son.

During proceedings the woman claimed her ex-husband pressured her into having sex on an almost daily basis, and forced himself on her if she refused.

Alleging their relationship was characterised by bouts of domestic violence, she stated that he threatened to kill her and their son with a knife.

According to the woman’s account she had begged for divorce from a man who others thought of as “an angel”.

The court was told he made all the travel plans for her and the boy to travel to the United Kingdom.

Denying all of the claims made against him, the man insisted that he never demanded sex, always provided financially for his family and was fully involved in his son’s care.

He alleged his ex-wife told him she wanted to travel to Ethiopia for her uncle’s wedding, and that he gave her cash for the trip.

Once she had arrived in the UK, where an application for asylum was made, all attempts to contact her failed.

The man said he did not know her whereabouts until he was informed that the mother and son had been sighted at a church in Northern Ireland.

Ruling on the case, Mr Justice Kinney identified “significant” inconsistencies in the woman’s account.

“I am therefore not satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the plaintiff consented to the removal of (his son) to the United Kingdom, or that he acquiesced to the wrongful removal,” he said.

“I am further not satisfied on the balance of probabilities that (the boy) faces a grave risk that he will be exposed to physical or psychological harm if he was to return to Switzerland.”

The judge declared: “The removal of (the boy) to Northern Ireland was wrongful and in breach of the rights of custody of the plaintiff pursuant to Article 3 of the Hague Convention. 

“I make an order that (he) be returned to the plaintiff in Switzerland but that the return order shall not be implemented until the conclusion of the asylum proceedings currently being considered by the Secretary of State.”

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