Family Law Hub

MB v GK & Ors (No 2) Wardship (Welfare) [2017] EWHC 16

Mother lived in the UK, the father had absconded to Singapore and the child was living in Singapore with the paternal grandparents. The child was a ward of the UK court and the UK court had jurisdiction to determine future arrangements for the child. The father argued that the child was now settled in Singapore having lived there since 2013, and a return to the UK would put the child in an intolerable situation, thereby exposing him to psychological harm. The father's arguments were rejected and an order was made for the return of the child to the UK.

  • This judgment was delivered in private. The judge has given leave for this version of the judgment to be published on condition that (irrespective of what is contained in the judgment) in any published version of the judgment the anonymity of the children and members of their family must be strictly preserved. All persons, including representatives of the media, must ensure that this condition is strictly complied with. Failure to do so will be a contempt of court.

    Case No: FD14P00124

    Neutral Citation Number: [2017] EWHC 16 (Fam)

    IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

    FAMILY DIVISION

    Royal Courts of Justice

    Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

    Date: 17/11/2016

    Before :

    MRS JUSTICE ROBERTS

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    Between :

    MB (Applicant)

    - and -

    (1) GK

    (2) KF

    (3) GG

    (4) (a child) through his Children's Guardian, Mrs Lillian Odze (Respondents)

    (No. 2) Wardship (Welfare Enquiry)

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    Mr Edward Devereux of counsel (instructed by Goodman Ray Solicitors) for the Applicant

    No appearance by the First, Second or Third Respondents

    Ms Penny Logan (CAFCASS Legal) for M through his Guardian

    Hearing dates: 14th, 15th 16th and 17th of November 2016

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    Judgment

    Mrs Justice Roberts :

    A. Introduction

    1. These are wardship proceedings which concern M, who was born on 5 July 2012. He is now nearly 4? years old. He is the only child of the applicant mother (MB) ("the mother") and GK, the respondent father ("the father"). In circumstances to which I shall come, M is currently living in Singapore in the care of his paternal grandparents. Very recently, and despite the existence of a passport order in this jurisdiction, the father absconded from London and has returned to Singapore. He has now taken up residence in his parents' apartment with M. Despite several orders of the English court requiring the child's return to this jurisdiction (orders which have now been confirmed by the Singapore courts, subject only to an outstanding appeal by the father), the enforced separation between M and his mother continues. He remains a ward of this court, as he has been throughout these proceedings.

    2. In July 2015, the continuing jurisdiction of the English court in relation to the wardship proceedings and the full welfare enquiry which would inevitably flow therefrom was confirmed in a judgment which I delivered in relation to the issue of forum conveniens. It is reported under neutral citation number [2015] EWHC 2192 (Fam). The Court of Appeal rejected the father's appeal against that decision. On 9 May 2016 the Family Justice Courts of the Republic of Singapore ("the Singapore court") made a mirror order requiring the child to be returned immediately to the United Kingdom to the courts of England and Wales. On 4 October 2016, the judge dealing with parallel proceedings in Singapore instituted by M's paternal family confirmed in a careful written judgment that the English court was both a competent jurisdiction and the more appropriate forum for resolving issues concerning M's future living arrangements: see TSE v TSF and Others [2016] SGFC 121. This hearing has been listed to consider what final orders should now be made in relation to M in terms of those arrangements.

    3. As he has done throughout this litigation in relation to orders requiring the return of M to this jurisdiction, the father has appealed this latest decision of the Singapore court. Together with his parents, he seeks to argue that M is now settled in Singapore having been in the sole care of his grandparents since August 2013. They seek to argue that a return to this jurisdiction will put the child in an intolerable situation and he will thereby be exposed to psychological harm. They rely on the fact that he has had no real contact with his mother for the last two and a half years. They seek a social welfare report to advance their case in Singapore. Moreover, they claim that they have had no involvement in the English proceedings and thus (presumably) no opportunity to advance their case in the English court on welfare grounds.

    4. In this context, the recent conclusions of the Singapore court are highly relevant. At paragraph 39 of her recent judgment, District Judge Tan Peck Cheng said this:-

    "I have considered the grandparents' reasons (see para 32) and find that there are no special circumstances in this case. The child is a Ward of the UK courts. The UK Court order stated that the UK will give directions for the care of the child within 2 days of his return to the UK. There is no shred of evidence that there is a grave risk that the child's return would expose him to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable position. On the contrary, it is well recognised in both Hague Convention and non Hague Convention cases involving the return of the child that it is in the best interests of the child for the court of the child's habitual residence or the 'natural forum' to decide on the child's custody matters. The grandparents are of the view that the wife is not suitable to care for the child and that they are the ones who have been taking good care of the child. To me these are matters for them to bring up in the UK court if they wish. I should add here that I understand from the wife and the grandparents' counsels that the interim access I ordered for the wife pending the handing over of the child to the wife for the return to the UK was carried out smoothly. The child related well to the wife and they went out together during access." (The emphasis is mine.)

    5. I do not accept the case (if it be advanced by the paternal grandparents) that they have been denied the opportunity to participate in these English proceedings. As will be plain from the face of the many case management orders which I have made to date, M's grandparents have been afforded every opportunity to become involved in these proceedings. Through Mr Armstrong, the father's counsel in the English proceedings, I have extended to them a personal invitation to participate, whether by attending through legal representation, in person, and/or by means of a video link bridge from Singapore should they prefer that route of communication. I am aware that they speak English fluently but I have offered to facilitate their attendance by providing interpreters if necessary. I have made it very clear that I would welcome their participation in this welfare enquiry on whatever basis they considered appropriate. Through the father and his counsel, I made it very clear that I was keen to hear for myself about the concerns they were expressing for their grandson in the event of a return to this jurisdiction. I have ensured throughout that they (and through them, their legal team in Singapore) have been kept informed of each and every development in the English proceedings. They have been served with all the documentation which has been produced and, in similar fashion, I have copies of all the documentation which they have put before the Singapore courts. Thus, in embarking on this welfare enquiry, I have not only each and every witness statement produced by M's parents in the context of the English litigation but also every witness statement produced by them and the paternal grandparents in the litigation which has been ongoing in Singapore.

    6. The truth of the matter, as I find, is that, to date, M's paternal grandparents have declined to participate. I have been told that neither the father nor the paternal grandparents recognise the jurisdiction of this court to deal with issues relating to M's arrangements. In this context, it seems that my views about their unwillingness to participate mirror those of District Judge Tan Peck Cheng who found in her judgment delivered on 4 October 2016 that the lack of involvement by the grandparents in these English proceedings was the result of their unwillingness to participate rather than their inability to do so.

    7. In this context it is not without significance that, in parallel with the wardship proceedings, I have been dealing with the financial claims of the mother arising under Part III of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984. One of the issues to be determined in these proceedings is the appropriate division of the equity in the former matrimonial home in London. It is the father's case that the mother should receive nothing and that the net proceeds following a sale should be remitted to him in Singapore. He is very keen to prosecute that outcome in the Part III proceedings and has instructed specialist counsel to advance his case in this respect. Mr Nicholas Wilkinson duly appeared before me on 15 November 2016 on a directions hearing to seek an adjournment of the mother's financial claims. He told me that he was instructed by the father in relation to the financial proceedings on a direct access basis and was able to communicate directly with his client in Singapore. When I enquired about the father's stance in respect of the imminent final welfare hearing in relation to M, Mr Wilkinson told me that he did not act for the father in the wardship proceedings and did not have his client's instructions on this aspect of the case.

    8. The father is undoubtedly aware that this hearing has been listed to determine final aspects in relation to the arrangements for M. That much is clearly set out (with emphasis) in the case management directions made by Mr Justice MacDonald on 19 October 2016. Recital B to that order records the following information which was placed before the court on that occasion shortly after the father had breached orders of the court by leaving the jurisdiction and returning to Singapore:-

    "AND AFTER Mr Grant Armstrong, counsel who was previously instructed in the wardship proceedings by the First Respondent father ("the father") on a direct access basis also attending and informing the court that he is without instructions from the father but confirming that he is in contact with the father and that he will communicate the details and substance of this hearing to the father (including the court's views directed specifically to the father)."

    9. Recital D of the same order records in clear terms "that the court at the hearing provided for below at paragraph 1 will consider what final welfare orders are in the best interests of M" (my emphasis). Recital I of MacDonald J's order recorded the fact that the judge was well aware in making his case management orders that the father had initiated further steps in the Singapore proceedings following his return to that jurisdiction. In particular, the English court on that occasion was aware of the fact that he had applied to vary that part of an order made in Singapore on 3 September 2015 which provided that there would be no specific order in respect of M's care and control subject to the ability of either party to apply in the event that the father should return to the jurisdiction1.

    10. The substantive case management orders made by MacDonald J on that occasion begin as follows:-

    "1. These proceedings are listed for consideration of whether final welfare orders should be made in respect of [M] … (including with whom [M] should live and who [M] should have contact with) before Mrs Justice Roberts sitting at 10.30am at the Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London WC2A 2LL on 15 November 2016 …".

    11. There was provision in that order for the father and the paternal grandparents to file and serve all the evidence upon which they seek to rely. There was specific provision for them to attend the final hearing in person or by video conferencing facilities. M's Guardian was to file and serve a report for the court and the intention was that all the evidence (including that relied on by M's paternal family) could and would be considered and assessed by the Guardian before she made her final recommendations to the court. In this context, the order provided that the fresh evidence which the father had filed in the proceedings in Singapore following his return to that jurisdiction in September 2016 would be specifically considered by the court at the final English welfare hearing.

    12. In these circumstances, I asked Mr Wilkinson to communicate directly with the father and, through him, with the paternal grandparents, on my behalf to extend to them, once again, an invitation to participate in this hearing. I indicated that, even at this late stage, arrangements could and would be made to facilitate their attendance by means of a video link directly with the court at a time convenient to them to allow for the time difference between London and Singapore. I asked Mr Wilkinson to convey through the father to his parents that all the evidence they had filed in the Singapore proceedings was before me in the several bundles of documents which I had already read in preparation for the hearing.

    13. Mr Wilkinson was kind enough to relay that information to his client. He subsequently informed me that the father and paternal grandparents maintained their positions that the English court had no jurisdiction in relation to issues concerning M's future living arrangements. In these circumstances, they declined to take any part in the ongoing proceedings in this jurisdiction. The father declined to participate further notwithstanding the fact that he was actively seeking to promote his case in the ongoing financial proceedings through Mr Wilkinson. I was invited to adjourn the listed welfare enquiry to await the outcome of the father's appeal against the decision of District Judge Tan Peck Cheng who had directed that M should be returned to England to the full-time care of his mother.

    14. Neither the mother nor the Guardian supported any further delay in decision making for M. I was told that the father's appeal was likely to be heard in January 2017. I know not when judgment might be handed down. It took many months before the result of his previous appeal was handed down. The father has sought permission from the Singapore court to adduce fresh evidence for the purposes of his current appeal. I have a copy of the affidavit which he has sworn in support of that application. That document seeks to place before the court the following new information concerning the arrangements for M:-

    (i) the father is now residing in Singapore; and

    (ii) the London family home was in the process of being repossessed by the mortgagor (thereby rendering the mother potentially homeless and unable to provide appropriate care for M).

    15. What he declined to put before the Singapore court in connection with sub-paragraph (ii) above was that the issue of the security of the mother's occupation in the former matrimonial home had been canvassed extensively during the course of proceedings before me in this jurisdiction. He was perfectly well aware of that fact. Substantial arrears had accrued in respect of the mortgage on the property. Rather than allow the Bank to take possession (as had been the father's case initially), it was agreed that there would be an interim order for sale in the context of the mother's Part III proceedings. On this basis, the Bank has agreed to the adjournment of the possession proceedings in order to enable the mother to offer the property for sale on the open market2. Subject to the parties' other liabilities, there is likely to be equity of some £560,000 or thereabouts following a sale and I have already recorded in an order which I made on 4 August 2016 that, from those proceeds of sale, the court will make provision for the parties' future housing and income needs and those of M, including any interim needs which may arise in respect of the provision of suitable living arrangements (including any interim rented accommodation) and interim periodical payments.

    16. Counsel instructed in the Part III (financial) proceedings have now agreed an order whereby, in the event of an open market sale prior to the final resolution of the mother's financial claims in this jurisdiction, provision will made out of the net proceeds to enable the mother to rent suitable short-term accommodation. A five day final hearing has been listed before me on 20 March 2017 when all outstanding aspects of the finances will be resolved. As far as I am aware, the father has not put any of this information before the court in Singapore in the context of his pending appeal.

    17. I declined to adjourn this final welfare hearing in relation to M on the following grounds:-

    (i) In the context of the English proceedings, I now have before me all the written material which the father and the paternal grandparents have put before the court in Singapore. I have the evidential basis for a holistic overview of the current circumstances of M's life in Singapore as it is now and as it should remain (on the case advanced by the paternal family). I have the mother's proposals in the event that M returns to make his home with her in this jurisdiction. M's Guardian has had an opportunity to review all of that material for the purposes of her final report to this court.

    (ii) I have afforded every conceivable opportunity to the paternal family to participate in these proceedings by whatever means they might choose. Every invitation has thus far been rejected.

    (iii) The English court has been accepted to be the court of competent jurisdiction in relation to matters concerning M's welfare by orders made here and in Singapore.

    (iv) The child has already been separated from his mother for almost three years having been wrongfully retained in Singapore as a result of the father's actions which were found to be duplicitous, cruel and inimical to M's welfare. I am satisfied that this child's time frame will not withstand a further delay of what could be months, if not longer. As it is, the Guardian's clear view is that "[M] is likely to have suffered emotional harm as a result of the actions of his paternal family and will continue to do so as long as he resides in their care". Whilst the paternal grandparents have provided for all of M's physical day to day needs since he was taken from his mother's care in January 2014, the Guardian's concerns are focused upon their ability to meet his emotional needs and their inability to recognise the harm which M's continued separation from his mother is causing.

    18. On 9 May 2016, at what was anticipated to be the conclusion of the Singapore proceedings, the Singapore court made orders requiring the paternal grandparents to deliver M into the care of his mother at midday on 20 May 2016 together with all his travel documents and other official records. In an order which mirrored in part the English orders made to date in these proceedings, District Judge Tan Peck Cheng declared M's place of habitual residence to be England. The clear expectation of the court was that the mother would immediately return with M to England. There was a specific direction in the Singapore court's order for a review of the interim care arrangements for M within 2 working days of her arrival. The mother travelled to Singapore on 11 May 2016 in order to take up the contact with M which the Singapore court had ordered should take place between 15 and 20 May 2016 immediately prior to his travelling back with her to this jurisdiction. As a result of an application by the paternal grandparents for a stay of that order, the handover did not take place. However, timetabling in relation to the welfare hearing in the English court was put in place by MacDonald J on 19 October 2016 in circumstances to which I have already referred earlier in this judgment.

    19. In addition to the written material which is now available in both jurisdictions, I heard oral evidence from the mother and the Guardian. I was also able to view a number of video recordings made during two contact sessions which took place between M and his mother in March and May 2016 in accordance with the orders made in the Singapore proceedings. For these purposes, she was able to travel to Singapore having been sponsored for the two visits in March and May 2016 by her national Embassy.

    20. Before I turn to that considerable body of evidence, I propose to say something about the background to, and history of, this long-running litigation.

    B. The background

    21. The mother is a Mongolian national who has recently celebrated her 33rd birthday. The father is a national of Singapore. He is 39 years old. The parties met in November 2010 and married in Singapore in June the following year. The father was employed by a well-known American bank in London. Shortly before the marriage, and no doubt with the intention that it should become the matrimonial home, the parties acquired an apartment in Westbourne Terrace, Lancaster Gate, W2. It was purchased with a substantial mortgage and it remained the matrimonial home until the parties' separation and the father's initial return to Singapore. The mother is a highly educated woman who was living and working in Mongolia until 2010. She obtained her first degree in finance and economics in that jurisdiction. Shortly after her arrival in London in October 2011, she was offered a place at Birkbeck College to study for an MA degree. For reasons to which I shall come, she was unable to complete that course although she has since secured an additional Diploma in Business Management.

    22. The marriage was celebrated in June 2011 less than a year after the parties met. The father returned to his job in the City and, some four months later, the mother joined him in London on a dependant's visa. M was born in London nine months after her arrival.

    23. For reasons to which I shall shortly return, it appears that the marriage was under pressure almost from the outset and certainly by the time M was born.

    24. There has been an issue running through the wardship proceedings as to who was M's primary carer during the early months of his life. It is not disputed that he was breastfed by the mother throughout the first seven months of his life and all the evidence which is currently before me (to which I shall come in due course) suggests that he developed a deep and enduring attachment to her during his early months of life. The paternal grandparents (the second and third respondents) travelled to London to spend two separate blocks of time with their son, daughter-in-law and new grandson in July 2012 and March 2013. There is an issue as to precisely how long they stayed on each occasion. It matters not for the purposes of this judgment: each visit certainly lasted for several weeks.

    25. By the time M was one year old, the mother had embarked upon a course of study in written and spoken English. It was intended to provide the platform for her part-time studies at Birkbeck College, London. She had exams coming up and there was an agreement between the parents that they would travel together to Singapore with M during the course of the summer (2013) in order that M could spend a period of time in his paternal grandparents' care, thereby leaving her free to study over a short but intensive period during which she would not have commitments in respect of child care. At the conclusion of her examinations, the plan was that they would return to Singapore and, after spending a month together for the purposes of a holiday, the family would return to their lives in London. The mother had already identified a nursery placement for M on his return. On her case (which has already been accepted and reflected in clear findings made by Ms Justice Russell in March 2014), this was never intended as anything more than a few short weeks of temporary separation from M whilst she prepared for her examinations. The mother told me in the context of this hearing that she had regretted the decision almost immediately because she missed her child so much. The daily telephone and Skype calls between London and Singapore did nothing to displace the sense of loss she felt when she left M in his grandparents' care. She wanted to return to Singapore to collect him in November 2013 but the father prevailed upon her to stiffen her resolve and wait the few more weeks until the conclusion of her studies. He also told her that his work commitments at the Bank meant that he could not travel until the beginning of the New Year in 2014.

    26. As events were to prove, the father had by this stage (and probably some time before) reached the conclusion that his marriage to the mother was over. He did not, however, communicate that information to her. In ignorance of the fact that the father had issued formal divorce proceedings in Singapore, in January 2014 she accompanied him on a flight to that jurisdiction with the intention of returning to London with their son. Without any prior warning, she was immediately served with the proceedings on her arrival and told that M would not be returning to London. To prevent any attempt by her to frustrate that plan, the father had applied to the Singapore court on a without notice basis and secured a temporary order preventing her from removing M from the jurisdiction of Singapore.

    27. Despite almost three years of bitterly contested litigation in London and in Singapore, that is where M remains to this day. Having secured M's retention in Singapore in the manner I have described, F's case in these English wardship proceedings has always been that, with the passage of time since July 2013, M has acquired a new habitual residence in Singapore. At an early stage of the litigation, that case was rejected by Ms Justice Russell. In March 2014, her Ladyship found that M's stay in Singapore in the care of the paternal grandparents was for the specific purpose of enabling the mother to complete her English studies. She rejected any suggestion that the mother had consented to the child remaining in Singapore beyond January 2014 at the latest. In these circumstances, and on the basis of an application of English law, she found that M had not acquired a habitual residence in Singapore. Since he had remained habitually resident in England and was being retained in Singapore without the mother's consent, Russell J continued the wardship proceedings and ordered the father to return the child to this jurisdiction. In relation to the without notice order which the father had obtained from the Singapore court preventing M's removal from that jurisdiction, she concluded that it had been made without notice and/or full adjudication3.

    28. The judgment of Ms Justice Russell is reported as MB v GK [2014] EWHC 963 (Fam). Because of their relevance to the welfare enquiry which I am currently undertaking, I record below the relevant history and the specific findings of fact which were left undisturbed by the English Court of Appeal when the case subsequently travelled to their Lordships' court on the father's appeal against her decision.

    "8. [The mother] had to take exams in October 2013 which would have been time consuming. It was undoubtedly agreed that M would travel to Singapore with his parents in July and that they would leave him there in the care of his paternal grandparents. M's mother says she expected him to return to England in November, but that K said he could not take any time off of work then. He booked and paid for flights for himself and the mother to travel to Singapore on 17 January, a flight for all three to return to England on 25th January 2014. Without telling his wife [the father] resigned from his job in London and arranged to take up a position with his employer in Singapore.

    9. Immediately on his arrival in Singapore in January, and unbeknownst to [the mother], [the father] commenced ex parte custody and divorce proceedings. [She] was served with the divorce and custody papers as she took lunch with her husband at the hotel where they were staying. He had also applied, without giving her notice, for a court order prohibiting her from removing M from the jurisdiction of Singapore. …"

    "10. …. Upon her return to England the mother discovered that she had been locked out of the family home and that her ATM card to the party's joint account no longer functioned."

    "20. [The father deliberately set out to mislead his wife as to his intentions when they returned to Singapore in January [2014]. He withdrew a substantial sum of money from their joint account (£18,000) the day before they arrived in Singapore. He did not tell her he had left his job, he did not tell her he intended to divorce her, he did not tell her he would be remaining in Singapore. Even on his own account that M was to remain in Singapore by agreement that was on the basis that both his parents would be working and studying in the UK. He renewed his work visa for the UK, unnecessarily, with the intent of compromising and invalidating his son's visa and [that of] his wife in the UK. This was to stop his son travelling here and to make [his wife's] immigration status precarious.

    21. He bought return tickets for himself and his wife; and one for M. The speed with which lengthy documents were filed with the [Singapore] court on the Monday, after they had arrived on the Saturday in Singapore, makes it more likely than not that the case had been being prepared prior to his leaving London. Moreover he did not disclose to the court in Singapore the purpose of his trip to Singapore and the fact that the child's mother was present in the country. This is all consistent with a deliberate plan to separate mother and child indefinitely as, on his own evidence, [she] could not remain in Singapore for long without his sponsorship. It is not possible to say when this plan was conceived but it may have been as early as before M was taken to Singapore in the first place or shortly thereafter."

    "22. …. He travelled with an empty suitcase to Singapore in January and admitted to me in evidence that he had taken this and other steps to conceal from his wife what his intentions were. He claims that [she] was a neglectful mother and poor parent. The observation of the social worker entirely contradicts this claim."

    "25. [The father] did not impress me as a witness. He was curiously ignorant of his son's routines and I did not get any impression of M from his evidence. I was wholly unconvinced by his claims that he was bullied or coerced by his wife into doing things against his will. He had no idea what clothes [she] had bought M for his return; either he has no interest in what M's mother does for their son or he had already dismissed her as irrelevant. His actions were underhand, devious and cruel. He has, quite deliberately, sought to separate M from his mother; and clearly intended to do so permanently, as there is no plan in place to enable [her] to remain in Singapore. I do not accept his claim that [she] did not care for and look after M; there is no evidence that she was anything other than the primary carer.

    26. I do not accept the evidence of [the father] that there was any agreement that M remain in Singapore or that it was intended that they would bring M up in Singapore. I am sure it is his plan that he and his family do so but there is nothing in his conduct or his evidence that he intended to include M's mother in this plan."

    29. The Court of Appeal handed down judgment on 15 July 2014. Kitchin LJ delivered the leading judgment. Dealing first with the findings made by Russell J in relation to habitual residence, his Lordship said this:

    "33. It is clear that the judge considered the father a thoroughly unsatisfactory witness. His evidence was, she held, contradictory and contained many serious assertions about the mother which were wholly unsubstantiated. Further, he had taken a series of steps which were intended to conceal from the mother his true intentions when they travelled to Singapore in January 2014. Strikingly, he had not informed the mother that he intended to divorce her and had instructed lawyers to prepare proceedings against her, that he had withdrawn from their joint account £18,000 the day before their departure; or that he had arranged with his employers to relocate to Singapore. Moreover, he had taken positive steps to mislead the mother by renewing his United Kingdom work visa and by buying three air tickets so that the whole family could travel together to London on 25 January 2014 when he had no intention of doing any such thing. He was also ignorant of M's routines and had taken no interest in the steps the mother had taken to prepare for the return. All in all he was, the judge considered, underhand, devious and cruel.

    34. By contrast the judge found the mother to be a calm and dignified witness who felt isolated, having neither family nor support. Nevertheless she had arranged further part time study for herself at Birkbeck College and had arranged a nursery place for M, a matter of which the father was aware.

    35. In the light of all these findings it comes as no surprise that the judge preferred the mother's evidence over that of the father as to their intentions when they took M to Singapore in July 2013. …."

    30. Kitchin LJ went on to consider separately and at length the law in relation to habitual residence, including A v A and the more recent decision of the Supreme Court in In re LC (Children)(Reunite International Child Abduction Centre intervening) [2014] UKSC 1, [2014] 2 WLR 124. At paragraph 41, he said this :

    "… I do not believe there can be any real doubt that until July 2013 M was habitually resident in England. He was born here and lived with his mother and father in the property which the father had bought in Westbourne Terrace. True it is that the father is Singaporean and the mother Mongolian, but this was the country in which the father was working and the mother was studying and in which they intended to live.

    42. Did the position change in July 2013 when the mother and father travelled to Singapore to leave M in the care of the paternal grandparents? I believe that the judge was perfectly entitled to hold that it did not. M was entrusted to the care of the paternal grandparents for a few months but no more. It was understood and agreed that when return to Singapore where they would be reunited with M and then return with him to London. The arrangement was intended to be a temporary one until the father decided to separate from the mother and to relocate to Singapore. But at that point the father deceived the mother and concealed his true intentions from her in the manner I have described. In consequence the mother and father never had a common intention that they would continue their lives together as a family in Singapore or that M should continue to live there. In all these circumstances I believe the quality of M's residence and the degree of his integration into a social and family environment in Singapore was such that the judge could properly conclude it was not habitual. In my judgment the approach the judge adopted on this issue cannot be faulted; indeed I think the answer to which she came was correct."

    31. In terms of Russell J's decision to order the immediate return of M to his mother's care, Kitchin LJ said this at paragraph 44 of his judgment :-

    "The court was concerned with M's welfare in circumstances where the father had taken unilateral action to separate him from his mother by deception in the context of a breakdown in their relationship. The judge concluded that M's best interests required his immediate return to his mother's care. As the judge made clear, this did not preclude a consideration at a later stage of more general welfare issues or, indeed, of issues of forum. But, having satisfied herself that M was habitually resident in this jurisdiction and the father having given an undertaking not to pursue the Singaporean proceedings concerning M, it seems to me the judge was perfectly entitled to conclude that M's immediate welfare needs would be best served by restoring him forthwith to his mother's care. Moreover, the judge considered it important that the father should not be permitted to frustrate her order by returning to Singapore as he had made it abundantly clear it was his intention to do so. At this stage she had every reason to believe that the father would comply with her order and that the grandparents would respect any request by their son to return M to this jurisdiction and the care of his parents. In these circumstances, I consider that the judge was entitled to make the order that she did."

    32. Having lost his appeal against the order for return of M to England, the father issued a fresh application by which he sought a stay of the mother's English wardship proceedings on the basis that all matters concerning M's future welfare and placement should be dealt with by the courts in Singapore since that was a more appropriate jurisdiction in which these matters might be considered. In May 2015, I dealt with that application over the course of two days. I concluded that England was the appropriate forum for this litigation and any future decisions in relation to M's longer term welfare. By that stage the case had travelled on two separate occasions to the Court of Appeal in London but the core findings of fact made by Ms Justice Russell in 2014 were left undisturbed by their Lordships.

    33. My judgment in relation to the stay and forum conveniens proceedings is reported as Re M (A Child: Wardship) under neutral citation number [2015] EWHC 2192 (Fam). In that judgment, I set out a detailed exposition of the narrative history of the case, the findings of fact (as confirmed by the English Court of Appeal), and my reasons for concluding that England was the appropriate jurisdiction for all future decisions in relation to M's care. As I indicated during the course of this hearing, I do not intend in this judgment to rehearse again the argument and legal submissions which I heard and the reasons for the conclusions which I reached. That judgment stands alone but it is an integral part of the ongoing decision-making in relation to M and forms the essential cornerstone of, or foundation for, this judgment. Insofar as it may be necessary, I incorporate it by reference to this judgment.

    C. The parties' positions in relation to the future arrangements for M

    The current arrangements for M in Singapore

    34. Since he was retained in Singapore as a result of the unilateral actions of the father in January 2014, M has been living in the apartment in Pandan Valley which is owned by the paternal grandparents who are now 69 and 70 years old4. In statements which they have prepared for the purposes of the English financial proceedings, the grandparents describe that home as "a 40-year old apartment which has seen better days"5. Since September 2016, the father has also been living in their apartment. However, the present arrangements for M are regulated by a series of voluntary care agreements into which his grandparents entered with the local Singapore Child Protection Service. I have seen copies of the relevant agreements which have been included in the material within the bundles.

    35. In the context of M's future, a careful analysis of the evidence which is relied on by the father demonstrates an internal inconsistency of approach. It seems that he seeks to advance a different case in each jurisdiction in terms of the financial support and infrastructure which he will be able to put in place for this child. In the evidence which he has submitted to this court for the purpose of the English financial proceedings, the father states that his parents are dependent upon their retirement savings to meet their current outgoings and any future geriatric care6. Far from being wealthy, he tells me that they will need to budget carefully in order to meet their future needs. He describes them as "retirees who scrimp and save and watch every dollar out of necessity"7. His parents are also responsible for the care of his aged grandmother who is 90 years old and in need of help and support. She is also living in the apartment with the grandparents, the father and M.

    36. In terms of his own financial obligations towards his parents, the father's case is that he is likely to have to contribute c. £1,000 per month from some point in the near future towards their support as a legal requirement of local domestic law. He contends that he does not know how he will be able to manage to meet this requirement.

    37. As to M's future, the father intends to raise him in Singapore. In this endeavour he expects to be supported by his parents for as long as they are physically able to offer that support8. He asserts that his employment prospects in Singapore (and thus his income) will be limited. Despite the fact that he represented through his English barrister at a hearing in London that he was actively pursuing employment opportunities in London (and was absent from a court hearing in order to attend a series of interviews), his case now appears to be that he will retrain as a teacher and work locally in Singapore. He says he expects to earn the equivalent of about £20,800 net per annum. Together with the financial support he will be expected to provide for his parents in due course, he anticipates that his household expenses will be in the order of £5,550 per month or £66,600 per annum. As he himself accepts, "the budget is plainly not affordable and we are going to be on a very tight budget"9.

    38. In addition, the father deposes to global liabilities of just under £473,000. That sum includes money he has borrowed from his parents and friends, credit card debts, bank overdrafts and unpaid legal expenses which relate to the litigation in this jurisdiction. It appears that a further sum of £150,000 remains due and owing to his lawyers in Singapore in relation to the proceedings in that jurisdiction. If what he says is true, it appears that his financial situation is somewhat precarious given that his only property asset – on his case – is the equity which will be released from the sale of the London family home, the division of which remains to be decided.

    39. On his case, he sees the possibility of moving from his parents' home to live with M in a two bedroom apartment but only on the basis that he receives the entire net proceeds from the sale of the family home in London.

    40. In their evidence submitted to the Singapore court, the paternal grandparents have stated that they have sufficient reserves of financial savings for their retirement and for M's upbringing10.

    41. This evidence has to be compared and contrasted with what the father has said in a recent statement he made in the Singapore proceedings. On 13 September 2016, following his return to that jurisdiction, he swore an affidavit in which he stated that he fully intended to take over provision for M's financial needs now that he had been able to return to Singapore. In paragraph 27 of that statement, he said:

    "I was working as a quantative analyst for JP Morgan in Singapore at the time the divorce proceedings started. I then lost my job when I was detained in the UK by the UK Courts. I hope to find a position similar to the one I had in Singapore as soon as possible. In the meantime, I have an offer from a friend who runs a tuition agency to teach mathematics." (my emphasis)

    42. The employment which the father had secured in Singapore at the end of 2013 was, or appears to have been, a seamless transition from his former employment in London with JP Morgan. Without alerting the mother to his intentions, he had secured a transfer to the office which the Bank maintained in Singapore. The mother's (unchallenged) evidence in the English wardship proceedings was that the father was working very long hours whilst working in London, often not returning to the family home until midnight. Without the father's cooperation and assistance in this hearing, it is difficult to know where the truth lies in relation to his future intentions in respect of employment. He appears to have no qualms about presenting one case to this court in relation to the ongoing Part III proceedings with the objective of repatriating the entire proceeds of sale from the sale of the London family home and quite another to the Singapore court when seeking to demonstrate he expects to work again at a relatively senior professional level in the banking sector.

    43. Whatever his true intentions, his evidence is silent in relation to what, if any, arrangements he intends to make in relation to child care for M during periods when his future employment may mean he is not always available for this child. It is highly likely that a return to any form of employment at a fairly senior professional level (whether or not within the banking sector) will involve the need for cover in relation to child care at the beginning and end of the day. Future employment as a teacher will not necessarily relieve his need for additional assistance since he will inevitably have commitments outside normal school hours in terms of preparation and marking. It may be that the father is not always available to see M safely off to school or to put him to bed at the end of the day. He will need help on any view, whether that help comes from his parents on a voluntary basis or from someone he employs to assist with M's care. In this jurisdiction, we would be looking at the services offered by a nanny or au pair and I suspect the same would be true in Singapore. Inevitably there will be holiday periods of several weeks each year when M will not be at school. If he is to work as a teacher on a much reduced income, the school holidays may be less of a problem, although it is difficult to see how he will manage financially. There are bound to be times when the demands of the father's employment (whatever form that takes) will require him to arrange cover in the period after M finishes school before he returns home. M will need to be collected from school and cared for until his father is in a position to resume his care in the evenings. Whilst I suspect he may continue to rely on his parents in the short term, they will be increasingly unlikely to be able to continue to provide this level of support indefinitely. In terms of M's basic physical care, it appears that they have done a good job thus far. The mother told me during the course of her oral evidence that she had thanked the grandparents personally for the care they had given to M despite what it must have cost her emotionally to convey those thanks. However, neither is getting any younger: that is a simple fact of life. They are already involved in providing care for the paternal great-grandmother who also lives in the Singapore apartment. The time will come when the daily demands of a boisterous growing boy who loves to run and play sport will be beyond them. Nowhere in his evidence does the father tell me how this gap is to be bridged if M remains in his full-time care in Singapore.

    44. M's educational needs appear to be being met at the present time. He attends daily at the Kinderland Nursery School and I have seen many photographs which appear in the exhibits to the grandparents' statements of M's daily activities in this context. The father has also exhibited to his statement sworn on 13 September 2016 copies of various school reports which speak to M's development and progress. There are several 'observation sheets' prepared by his teacher, Miss G, and none of these contain anything which would give rise to concern over M's progress through the very early stages of his nursery education. He appears to be reaching all his developmental milestones; his motor skills are developing well; and he appears to be an active participant in all the activities which a child who is not yet 5 years old might be expected to enjoy. The report for March 2016 (his first term) concluded in this way:-

    "[M] shows curiosity and interest by exploring his surroundings. He shows willingness to participate in class but is able to do better when given individual attention. He is easily distracted and needs frequent encouragement to retain interest and concentration during lesson time. I hope that [M] will continue to show positive developments as the year progresses."

    45. The report dated 27 May 2016 for Term Two refers to the following:-

    "[M] shows understanding and respect to the rules. He asks permission and shows developing sense of others. He uses language to express desires. He is at the stage of developing cooperative play and learning social interaction through play."

    46. By 1 September 2016 (Term 3), his most report concluded,

    "[M] is continuing to grow in independence. He expresses needs and feelings in appropriate ways. He seeks approval from adults and knows what is expected of him but sometimes finds it difficult to obey some rules. He is developing a sense of achievement and feels motivated when encouraged positively. He seeks affirmation from adults and feels good when praised. I hope that M will continue to show positive developments."

    47. There is nothing in the evidence before me to suggest what, if anything, M's school knows about the ongoing litigation between his parents and paternal grandparents. His school reports make no reference to his mother and/or any reference M may have made to her existence as a presence in his early life. As part of her ongoing enquiries, the Guardian, Mrs Odze, sought to engage the Nursery in Singapore. On 2 November 2016, she called the Nursery and asked to speak to the headmistress, Ms L. That lady was unavailable but the Guardian was able to speak to M's class teacher who identified herself as Miss G.

    48. Miss G was able to report to the Guardian during the course of that telephone conversation that M was "doing fine". She said that he had attended nursery every day between 8.30am and 1pm and had been doing so since he was about 2 years old. Miss G said that he had friends at the nursery and interacted with the other children quite normally. His health was good and his attendance regular. When the Guardian enquired about whether M had ever mentioned his mother, Miss G told her that he had "only done so once or maybe twice". She was unable to recall when he had done so but believes he had said something this year in the context of having seen her during an occasion when "he went out with [her]". She was also able to report that he did talk about his paternal grandparents and what they did when they went out together on outings. Further, M had told her that his father was in London. Miss G told the Guardian that she was aware that the father had recently returned to Singapore since it was he who was now bringing M to school and picking him up. Before, it had always been the paternal grandparents.

    49. The Guardian subsequently received a letter written later on the same day (2 November 2016). It was sent by Ms CL, the principal of M's nursery. It said this:

    "I understand that there was an unidentified CAFCASS officer looking to speak to me in my capacity as principal of [M's nursery school], this afternoon … I have spoken to [Miss G] who took the short 2-minute call and who informed the officer that I was not present. [Miss G] is neither in a position, nor qualified nor authorised to comment on the child, [M], as she is only a teaching assistant."

    50. No further information was provided in that letter and no attempt has been made by Ms CL to contact the Guardian in order to provide any further information about M despite a separate request by email from the Guardian requesting a time when she might speak with the headmistress. Her email went unanswered. In my judgment, the most likely explanation for this is the request or instruction she is likely to have received from either or both of the father and the paternal grandparents not to become engaged in the English proceedings. My conclusion is reinforced by the fact that on each occasion when the Guardian has telephoned the home number provided for the paternal grandparents, she has been unable to speak to them. By way of example, on the same day she contacted M's nursery, she had made a call to the grandparents' home. She spoke to a young man who identified himself as a "visiting friend". He informed the Guardian that the maternal grandmother was out and he did not know when she would be back. When the Guardian called again a few hours later, no one answered the telephone.

    The ability of each of the parents to meet M's needs both now and in the future

    51. I have already referred earlier in this judgment to the abundance of written evidence which is now before both the English and Singapore courts. It covers a wide landscape which reflects the positions of all four parties to this litigation (including M, through his Guardian) and the parallel litigation which is ongoing in Singapore. I have carefully read and digested the content of each and every statement which the mother, father and paternal grandparents have made. Those statements span a time frame of almost two years. They begin at a time when M had only recently been taken to live in Singapore and they end with an up to date presentation of his life in his grandparents' home in that jurisdiction. Whilst I heard oral evidence at some length from the mother, the father has chosen not to take any active role in this welfare enquiry, in contradistinction to his involvement in the ongoing and parallel financial proceedings in this jurisdiction. Nevertheless, I have had an opportunity to observe him over many hours through his previous attendances at court when he has employed the services of his barrister, Mr Grant Armstrong. He has been able to give instructions to Mr Armstrong and has reacted to developments as they occurred from time to time during the previous English proceedings. Through the course of his written evidence to this and the Singapore courts, he has been able to articulate clearly his case in relation to the various shortcomings which he alleges against the mother. I shall return to his specific criticisms of her shortly.

    52. However, what emerges very clearly from his evidence is his strongly held belief that he is an innocent player in this débacle and is, and has been, the victim of a serious miscarriage of justice at the hands of the mother and the English courts. To the extent that he was sentenced to a period of imprisonment for contempt which the Court of Appeal was to overturn some two months into his sentence, I accept that he has some reason to complain. However, his main target in this respect is the mother and her allegations against him of rape and sexual violence, allegations which were subsequently rejected by a jury who, in October 2016, acquitted the father in the context of criminal proceedings in this jurisdiction. In a recent statement in the Singapore proceedings, the father explains graphically the extent of his antipathy towards the mother. He says that he had never intended to be separated from M and it is only because of her acts that he has been unable to return to Singapore for the past two and a half years. It seems to me that statement is his attempt, knowingly or otherwise, to rewrite history. As is clear from the findings made by Russell J (and left undisturbed on two separate occasions by the Court of Appeal), it was the father's own unilateral actions in deceiving the mother and keeping M in Singapore against her will in the context of the early stages of the divorce proceedings which has set in train the series of English orders requiring the return of M to this jurisdiction. Those orders and the passport orders which were made preventing him from leaving this jurisdiction pending M's return were the direct result of his own unlawful actions. The fact that the passport orders were subsequently overtaken by his bail conditions in the criminal proceedings instigated by the Crown Prosecution Service does not detract from the responsibility he must bear for the consequences of his own actions in retaining M in Singapore against the wishes of his mother. The child's subsequent retention in that jurisdiction in breach of both English and Singapore court orders was the responsibility of either the father or his parents or all three of those individuals. That liability has yet to be determined and, for reasons which will be obvious, I have deliberately recused myself from any involvement in the committal proceedings which were due to be heard by Holman J. It seemed to me, and it remains my view, supported by counsel, that it would not be appropriate for me to deal with those quasi-criminal proceedings whilst at the same time considering wider welfare issues in relation to M. The point is that it was the father himself who set in train the events which led to the wardship orders, including the passport orders which had, until recently, prevented him from leaving the jurisdiction. In these circumstances his sense of victimhood is entirely misplaced but it is nonetheless a significant and troubling aspect of this case since it feeds the clear sense of antipathy which he has towards the mother and clouds his insight into M's best interests. From the foot of the father's own evidence, it appears that his experience in this litigation (and, in particular, his incarceration pursuant to the order of Russell J) has left him suffering from potentially debilitating anxiety issues. Even the language which he deploys in his written evidence gives this court concern about his current state of mind and his undisguised feelings of contempt towards this mother and the court.

    53. In the affidavit which he put before the Singapore Court on 13 September 2016, the father said this:

    "By imprisoning me previously for my parents' refusal to return M to the UK, the UK courts were subscribing to the principle of sippenhaft, which is to punish an individual for the offences committed by another member of the individual's family. The last regime to have practiced [sic] sippenhaft was the Nazi regime." (paragraph 21)

    54. Even before his incarceration, the father's condescending attitude towards the mother is clearly reflected in a much earlier statement which he made for the purposes of the Singapore proceedings in January 2014. At paragraph 50, he said,

    "[M] may have been born in London but he is a Singapore citizen. He now lives in Singapore with my parents …. As his father and the head of the household, I am entitled to decide where the family lives."

    55. By way of a response to the mother's evidence that it was always intended that M would "grow up and be educated until completion of a post-graduate degree in London", he says in the same statement,

    "As stated above, it was my intention for [M] to be educated in Singapore. The Applicant cannot rely on such tenuous arguments to insist that [M] be returned to the UK." (my emphasis)

    56. In a similar vein, he had filed at a very early stage of the Singapore divorce proceedings a document entitled "Proposed Parenting Plan". It is dated 27 February 2014 and appears to be the equivalent of what we would have recognised as a "Statement of Arrangements" in relation to a child or children of the family. In that document, filed a matter of weeks after he had unilaterally retained M in Singapore against the clear wishes of the mother, the father states that M will continue living with him and his parents at their home in Pandan Valley and they will be responsible for his future care. In seeking "custody, care and control" of M in that document, the father contends that the mother's future involvement should be limited to "access".

    57. I am acutely concerned about the tenor of the father's recent evidence to the Singapore court in the light of the reality of the history and chronology of this case. That evidence is, I find, couched in language which suggests to me that this father has lost all objectivity in relation to the English litigation. He has, indeed, rewritten history for the purposes of advancing his case in the Singapore proceedings. I am entirely persuaded, as was Russell J, that this mother never agreed to her son remaining in Singapore beyond the end of 2013. I accept that she wished to secure his return to England as early as November 2013 and that she travelled with the father to Singapore in January 2014 with the specific intent of bringing their son home to London. That the father simply ignores these crucial milestones in the chronology of his son's life and seeks to place all the blame for his circumstances throughout 2014 and 2015 on the mother is of significant concern. It is of concern to this court not only in relation to his current animus towards her but also in relation to the feelings he is likely to project onto their son in terms of his own relationship with his mother. Whilst the father appears to accept the principle that she will have some ongoing (if supervised) contact with M if he remains in Singapore, I have no confidence whatsoever in his willingness or ability to sustain that contact once these proceedings are concluded. In my judgment, everything which I have heard and read in this case leads me to the inevitable conclusion that, if M remains in Singapore, the mother would at best be marginalised as a continuing influence in her child's life and, at worst, that he would lose contact with her altogether during the remaining years of his childhood and adolescence. Since it is M's best interests which lie at the very heart of this welfare enquiry (and not those of his parents), my clear view is that it would be little short of catastrophic for this child were that situation to arise.

    58. In contrast to the father's attitude to continuing contact between M and his mother (as I find it to be), and having listened carefully to the mother's oral evidence in response to searching questions from both Mr Devereux and Ms Logan, I am satisfied that, with appropriate safeguards, she recognises the importance to M of maintaining a relationship with his father in future. In my judgment, I can have confidence in the assurances she has given me in this respect because she has been able to demonstrate by her recent interaction with the paternal grandparents that she can prioritise M's needs over and above any feelings she may have about them and their alignment with the father's case in these proceedings. It is to her credit that she was able to thank them for taking good care of M over the past two years despite the fact that, until the intervention of the Singapore court in April last year (2016), she was denied regular contact with her son on a direct and indirect basis. None of the presents which she sent for M were given to him and I agree with the Guardian that this was a particularly distressing aspect of the barrier which they sought to erect between mother and child with their son's blessing or at his behest. Notwithstanding those actions on their part, the mother was still able to acknowledge the role they had undertaken in caring for her child and this lends credence to the evidence she gave me about her willingness to ensure that they remain a presence in M's life if he is returned to her care in London. I accept her evidence on that issue, as I accept that she is committed to ensuring that the father remains a part of M's life going forward.

    59. On behalf of M's Guardian, Ms Logan has stressed both in her written and oral submissions that M's emotional needs cause the Guardian the most concern in this case. Mrs Odze considers that the steps taken by the paternal grandparents and the father to deny M a relationship with his mother are wholly inimical to his emotional welfare. The time he has spent in Singapore is "lost" time which he will never get back. For reasons to which I shall come, the Guardian considers that the mother, who was M's primary carer for the first 13 months of his life, is more than capable of meeting his emotional needs. (Whether she was indeed his primary carer throughout that period is something which I shall consider in due course.) In this context, the Guardian points to the mother's ability to control what must have been strong and overwhelming emotions when she was reunited with M in Singapore in March 2016.

    60. The Guardian's clear view is that M is likely to have suffered emotional harm as a result of the actions of his paternal family and will continue to do so as long as he resides in their care or the care of the father. It is those emotional needs, and the ability of those caring for M to meet those needs, which the Guardian highlights as the magnetic feature of this welfare enquiry. I agree with that assessment. I am perfectly satisfied that this young child's physical and educational needs have been, and are being, met by the paternal family. The grandparents have clearly taken good care of their grandson in terms of his day to day care. They have enrolled him in a local nursery which has met his educational needs as they have developed over the past three years.

    The video evidence

    61. In this context, I had the benefit of a valuable insight into M's emotional needs and his relationship with his mother. This came in the form of video evidence which I watched in the context of the mother's evidence in chief. The recordings covered two separate periods of contact: the first in March 2016 as a result of an order made in the Singapore proceedings for supervised contact and the second in May 2016 when the mother travelled to Singapore to take M home to London pursuant to the order made by District Judge Tan Peck Cheng. I have referred earlier in this judgment to the fact that the learned Judge was told about the success of the first contact session when the matter came back before her in May 2016.

    The first contact session: March 2016

    62. The first session of contact took place at the play centre of the local court in Singapore. As this session was being filmed, the mother had only been reunited with M some thirty minutes previously. This must have been a difficult session for the mother. Not only was the entire contact session taking place in the context of formal supervision, but the entire visit was conducted in the presence of the paternal grandparents (who had brought M to the local court building), their lawyer and a representative from the Mongolian Embassy which sponsored the mother's visit. The room was crowded: other children and their parents were playing in the room which contained an abundance of brightly coloured toys, games and equipment.

    63. M can be seen throughout this video evidence. I was immediately struck by the absence of any reluctance on his part to engage fully with his mother. From the outset, he recognised her, called her "Mummy", and took great delight in constantly holding her hand whilst navigating a path through the nursery equipment which had been laid out for the children to enjoy. He repeated her name often and was keen to impress upon her his singing skills. He is clearly a confident and active little boy who was visibly delighted to be sharing time with his mother. She, for her part, was entirely warm and responsive in her body language towards him. There were several natural and spontaneous gestures of physical affection between the two: I had no sense whatsoever of any 'staging' or artificiality in these displays. I gained a clear impression of an intelligent boisterous child who was enjoying himself enormously.

    64. A good part of this video recording was taken up with M's construction of a wooden road layout which involved several hills and bends. With his mother's help, he chose and fitted the correct parts whilst she encouraged his efforts and congratulated him on finding the parts. She demonstrated a natural maternal ability to set appropriate boundaries for M's play: when a much younger child came to join in with the building project, she saw M's over-excitement and told him to be gentle with the baby. He responded to her instruction immediately. At various stages during his endeavours, she made him pause and offered him water from a beaker. There was much laughter and a huge sense of fun. M was enjoying his physical contact with his mother and there was nothing to suggest that this was anything other than an entirely appropriate and close mother/child interaction. When M's play amidst a sea of brightly coloured plastic balls became over-boisterous, she directed his attention to a new game of juggling soft play balls. She told him to take some deep breaths and he responded to her gentle encouragement.

    The second contact visit May 2016

    65. The second video recording which I saw was filmed in May 2016. This contact was unsupervised and took place (I believe) in the presence of her brother who recorded the occasion on his smartphone. The quality of the video was excellent. I watched it in the privacy of my chambers on a large computer screen. During this visit, M and his mother were playing in a local park close to the Botanical Gardens in Singapore. It was an equally relaxed occasion although M was once again apparently delighted to be in the company of his mother. He was leading her excitedly by the hand around the various pieces of equipment in the park. When he wanted to climb on one of the pieces of adult equipment, she restrained him gently and told him to "be careful". They played happily together on the children's equipment. I saw an inquisitive, intelligent and wholly engaged child interacting entirely appropriately with his mother, whom he again called "Mummy" throughout, stopping frequently in his play to give her hugs. These appeared to me to be entirely spontaneous childish gestures of affection. At no point was he asked to embrace his mother or pose for the camera. The impression which flowed very clearly to me from this recording was one of a child experiencing pure delight in the company of a parent.

    66. In one sense, these were difficult video recordings to watch because they spoke volumes about the depth of attachment between this small boy and his mother and the anguish he must undoubtedly have felt at her loss throughout a two and a half year period at a crucial stage of his life. It is a loss in respect of which I find the father and his parents have no insight whatsoever. I agree with the Guardian (who also saw the video recordings) that the almost instantaneous response which M showed when he was reunited with his mother is compelling evidence of, and testament to, the strength and depth of the bond that was created between them during the first year of his life. The mother told me during the course of her evidence that M had run to her immediately as soon as he saw her at the play centre in March at the first contact session despite the fact that his grandparents were by his side. She said, "He ran to me calling "Mummy, Mummy …" and I swept him up in my arms." This has strong echoes of her evidence in relation to the brief time they had spent together when she entered Singapore illegally in August 2014 when she had enlisted the support of CARI. She sets out in her written evidence how M ran voluntarily into her arms when he saw her then.

    67. During the course of her oral evidence, the Guardian spent some time considering the evidence of M's strong attachment to his mother. Mrs Odze is an extremely experienced CAFCASS officer who has some seventeen years of experience in this type of work. She said that the video recordings were particularly striking because of the positive nature of the relationship she was able to observe between mother and son. It was clear evidence of a very strong and secure attachment between the two. She stressed to me the importance of this bond which would have been established during the first six months of M's life when the mother was breast-feeding her child. Having created that bond, it would have developed during the second six months of his life. Thus, despite their prolonged separation from one another, M would have known immediately that this was someone with whom he felt comfortable and whom he could trust. It was clear to the Guardian from what she saw in the video recordings that he knew she was someone who made him feel safe and secure. As she put it, "He knew she was Mummy". She described their interaction and engagement as "amazing" in the circumstances: that is a description with which I agree. It was this degree of attachment which no doubt resulted in M becoming distressed and clinging when it was time for the mother to hand him back to the grandparents' care at the conclusion of these contact sessions.

    68. The Guardian told me that her observations of mother and child, together with the discussions she had with the mother at their face to face meeting, had persuaded her that the mother had significant insight into M's emotional needs and put those needs first. The extent of her own suffering during the lengthy period she has been separated from M was clear to the Guardian who told me she was moved by the fact she had been able to subordinate her feelings of grief to thank the grandparents for the care they had provided to M. The Guardian told me, too, that the mother had been extremely thoughtful about M's needs in the event that he is returned to her care in London. She recognises that there are likely to be difficult times ahead as M settles into his new home environment and she has already researched the availability of local resources and support services which will assist her to ameliorate any difficulty or distress which M may experience. The Guardian told me she could signpost additional resources for the mother and has undertaken to visit her and M at home immediately on his return to London if that is what this court should order. She stressed the need for the mother to be realistic about the transition. There was bound to be what she described as a 'honeymoon period' after which the reality of his new situation would become apparent to M. He was likely to be anxious but she was entirely satisfied that the mother would be equipped to deal with these difficulties. She told me that the mother is well supported by the sizeable Mongolian community in the area of London in which she lives. In addition, she has a network of friends and support through her local church. The Guardian told me that, in her view, the strength of M's evident attachment to his mother would give him a resilience which would equip him to deal with any future changes in his life. Contact with the paternal family will be an important part of the process of his adjustment to life in England.

    69. The Guardian spoke, too, of what she perceived to be a striking difference in approach between these two parents. She was concerned about the father's portrayal of himself as a victim in this litigation and his ability to support ongoing contact between M and his mother were he to remain living in Singapore. She said that, in contrast, she had been struck in her discussions with the mother by the fact that she had not once uttered one word of criticism about the paternal family: she was concentrating throughout on her wish to resume caring for M and her deep love for him.

    70. At the conclusion of her evidence, the Guardian told me that her professional view had not changed: it was overwhelmingly in M's best interests to return to this jurisdiction and to the full-time care of his mother to whom he was clearly and obviously attached.

    71. At this point, I observe, as I must, that the Guardian did not have the same opportunity to observe M with his father. That opportunity was denied to her because of the father's unwillingness to engage with this welfare hearing or to recognise that the English court has any role to play in relation to M's future.

    72. For my part, I have no doubt that the father loves M dearly. I am sure that if I were to see contemporaneous video recordings of M and his father playing together in the paternal family home or elsewhere on outings and trips, I would observe a close and loving relationship between father and son. Having seen M at play in many photographs and video recordings, I am satisfied that he is a little boy of boundless energy and intelligent curiosity. I am sure that he is likely to have derived much pleasure from spending time at play with his father. Similarly, I accept that the time they have spent living together in the same household since September last year (2016) when the father returned to Singapore will have been an opportunity for father and son to rekindle their own relationship, particularly in circumstances where the father does not appear to be working at present.

    73. However, what concerns me about the father/son relationship is its apparently insular, if not somewhat obsessive, nature. The father's witness statements convey at times an impression of authority, or ownership, in relation to M; the mother appears to be completely marginalised in her role as M's mother. Having decided that the marriage had run its course, the father clearly felt an absolute entitlement to dictate M's future living arrangements with scant, if any, regard to M's needs or the mother's feelings or plans for his future. In my judgment, that sense of 'entitlement' is evident in the manner in which he has conducted this litigation both here and in Singapore. He has challenged decisions of this court and the Singapore court on numerous occasions. On the one hand, he declines to participate in this jurisdiction in relation to decisions about his son's future, yet he employs top flight counsel to represent his interests in the financial proceedings which are ongoing in this jurisdiction. When the Singapore court confirmed this court's jurisdiction to deal with issues concerning M's future and made a mirror order which requires the paternal family to deliver the child into his mother's care, he flouts the English passport order and leaves the jurisdiction.

    74. I have the clear impression that there is little which this father will not do to prevent this mother resuming a parenting role in relation to their child. His lack of insight into M's need for a relationship with his mother goes beyond mere indifference to a former partner. He has left no stone unturned in his attempt in these proceedings to portray her as a bad mother who is unfit to care for their child and whose principal motivation in these proceedings is financial gain. He accuses her of using M as a pawn so as to better her prospects of securing a visa to remain in England.

    75. In my enquiry into where M's best interests lie, I cannot, and do not, ignore these matters. Were there any truth in what the father says, they would be matters of significant concern and would undoubtedly influence any decisions which the court makes in terms of M's future.

    76. Since the father is supported by his parents in the criticisms which he makes of the mother, their absence from these proceedings requires me to scrutinise with particular care both the allegations which he makes and the context of those allegations within the wide canvass of evidence which is before me. The written evidence in this case now runs to five separate bundles. I have read and absorbed it all. I have noted all their criticisms, including the manner in which the evidence of the paternal grandparents mirrors almost precisely that of the father. Throughout the grandparents' written evidence there is a continual pattern of invective against the mother. I quote one example which is typical of many. It appears in the statement of the paternal grandfather dated 19 March 2014 filed for the purposes of the Singapore proceedings. He says this:

    "…. Based on my wife's and my observations of [the mother] and our interactions with her sine their marriage in June 2011, we have come to the conclusion that [she] is an extremely selfish person. [She] is only interested in taking care of her own needs and wants, and does whatever she pleases, as and when she pleases. She has no interest in being a mother to [M] and is only interested in how she can benefit financially through the marriage. In fact [the mother] simply does not have the capability to take care of [M] on her own at all."

    78. That description of their daughter-in-law does not sit happily, or at all, with what I have seen myself from the video recordings of the mother's relationship with M and his with her. I am unfortunately driven to the conclusion that the attitude of the paternal family towards her is, and has been, heavily influenced by their son's feelings of complete antipathy, if not loathing, towards her. They are feelings which their son is quite simply unable to contain. The fact that they themselves have been unable to comprehend the damage which is being done to this child as a consequence of his separation from his mother is one of the sad consequences of the influence which their son has been able to exert, since I am entirely satisfied that the practical day to day care which they have given their grandson has been entirely appropriate. I do not doubt that they love M very much and I would want them to know that, in reaching my conclusions in this case, I have recognised and understood the amount of time and care which they have devoted to this small child.

    79. I have already referred to the oral evidence which I heard from the Guardian, Mrs Odze. I turn now to the mother's evidence.

    80. Notwithstanding the challenges which she has faced as this litigation has continued, the mother gave her evidence with a stoic dignity and grace. She is softly spoken but has a sufficient command of English to convey clearly not only the strength of her feelings about M's current circumstances but also the more delicate nuance of how his needs will best be met in future. I am entirely satisfied that she recognises and accepts that there may be challenges ahead if M returns to live with her in London. Furthermore, I agree with the Guardian that she has obviously invested time and thought in addressing these issues. Because her approach has been consistently centred on M and his needs throughout (as I find it has), I have confidence in her evidence to this court that she will work with professionals to whatever extent may be necessary to ensure that any changes in M's day to day living arrangements are managed in such a way to minimise the inevitable distress which he is likely to experience in the event that he is removed from his home with the paternal family.

    81. She answered questions put to her by Mr Devereux in relation to the father's allegations in a calm but resigned manner. At times she seemed almost exasperated by the accusations levelled against her. When it was put to her that she had been engaged in prostitution at some point prior to or after the marriage, she told me that there was no truth whatsoever in the father's allegations and she had no idea why he was saying these things. There is not one shred of evidence in the case to support this allegation other than the father's say-so and I reject it entirely.

    82. When she was asked whether she wanted to punish the father in some way, she told me calmly that all her efforts over the past two to three years had been directed towards a reunion with M. She told me that she loved him and wanted to bring him back to London. As her only child, she wanted no more than to love him and care for him. She told me that he was her motivation and that she was 'doing this for him'. It was noticeable that throughout her evidence, and notwithstanding the nature of the allegations levelled against her by the father, I saw no signs of hostility or resentment towards him. Throughout, she remained focused on M and his needs and she offered no criticism against either the father or his parents in terms of their treatment of her or M.

    83. As to her financial motivation, she told me that she had suffered enormously as a result of the ongoing litigation and had never asked the father for financial assistance save in relation to litigation costs. There were times, she said, when she had been in despair of securing justice for M but she had been determined to fight for him and his future. She had no confidence whatsoever in the father's ability to ensure she remained a part of M's life because she was convinced that he saw her as having absolutely nothing to offer their child.

    84. Her plan, if M is returned to her care, is to find a new home for them in London once the former matrimonial home is sold. At this stage, it is unclear whether there will be sufficient equity to enable her to buy an apartment. If necessary she will rent in the short term until the financial proceedings are resolved in March next year (2017). She recognises the need to provide for herself financially. Her existing academic qualifications will, she hopes, make it easier for her to establish herself at management level in retail. For the immediate future, she intends to make M's needs her priority. He has a place at a local nursery in London and she will work around his needs. She accepts that for several years during his early school career, she will need to look for part-time work which leaves her free to look after him when he is not at school.

    85. She was asked about M's early life in London and her role as his primary carer. She told me that there was no question but that she was M's primary carer for the first year of his life. She was with M day and night. For several months he slept in a cot beside his parents' bed. He was breast fed every two to three hours for the first seven months of his life. She told me, "It was a full time job and I enjoyed doing it". She described a typical daily routine which revolved around feed and bath times, walks in the morning and naps in the early afternoon. She described how, at 7 months, she had followed her doctor's advice and started to introduce M to solid baby food. She was able to tell me about medical appointments and health checks which she had attended with M. She described in some detail how she had liaised with the professionals involved in his care. She did not recall a single occasion when the paternal grandparents had attended any such appointments.

    86. Several instances of negligent or inappropriate maternal care were put to the mother by Mr Devereux. She was asked about times when it was said she had dropped M or taken insufficient care in cleaning him when changing nappies. It was put to her that she was more interested in spending time on the computer or going to the gym than in caring for her son; that she was angry and volatile towards the father in the presence of the grandparents.

    87. I observed her closely whilst these matters were being put. She looked genuinely bemused. She told me that none of these allegations were true and that there had been times when she had read the father's written evidence as a work of complete fiction. She described how the father was working long and extended hours during the two periods when his parents had come from Singapore to visit them during the first year of M's life. She told me there were often occasions when he would not return home until midnight. Whilst she apologised for saying it, she told me that he had little, if any, involvement in M's day to day care. She described an occasion when he became angry when he was woken by the mother who had responded to M's cries during the night. The father told her he had to be at work in the morning and asked her to change the baby and settle him so that he (the father) could go back to sleep.

    88. In reaching my conclusions about the nature of the relationship between mother and son during the first year of his life, I now have not only the mother's evidence but also the video recordings to which I have referred earlier. It seems to me inconceivable that this child would react as he did to a parent he had not seen for over two years had she been the negligent, uncaring figure which the father now seeks to portray. The warmth and closeness of their bond was real and unfeigned. In my judgment, it can only have been a bond which was nurtured and developed in circumstances where this mother was available to her child continuously throughout the first year of his life, where she responded to his needs and where he, in turn, became securely attached to her as his primary source of comfort and safety. He recognised her immediately as his mother and ran straight to her for physical comfort and reassurance.

    89. I am reinforced in this view by third party evidence which comes from a source external to the family.

    90. In February 2013 the mother had reported to her health visitor that she had been the victim of domestic abuse at the hands of the father. That formed the basis of a referral by the health worker to social services and the police. In accordance with its statutory child protection procedures, the local authority carried out an assessment. I have that assessment in the material which has been placed before the court. It is a report prepared by Westminster Children's Services and is dated 14 February 2013, although it was not signed off until May of that year. Within the section headed "Reason for Assessment", the following explanation is recorded:

    "A police notification was received on 12/02/2013 stating that [the mother] had contacted the police alleging that she had been grabbed and shaken by her husband, during an argument. …. She disclosed that her husband had threatened to take custody of [M] if she did not abide by his wishes. She made no historical disclosure of physical abuse from her husband but her demeanour had suggested fear of future violence.

    91. Under a later section of the report headed "Parent(s)/carer(s) capacity to respond appropriately to child(ren)/young person(s) needs", the report continues thus:

    "There are no concerns regarding the standard of care provided by [the mother]. She appears to be very well informed on child care and is proactive in seeking child development literature. It is clear that as her husband works full time, she is the primary carer." (my emphasis)

    92. Perhaps somewhat prophetically, the report continues in these terms:

    "[The mother] claimed that during arguments [the father] has made threats to remove [M] from her care and has stated concerns around her immigration status as a dependent of him. [She] went on to disclose that her husband had use to these threats [sic] to elicit compliance from her within the home and in their sexual lives."

    93. If there were any doubt at all about the truth of the mother's case in relation to her role as M's primary carer during the first year of his life, one needs to look no further than the father's explanation of these events as it is recorded in Westminster City Council's assessment. It has never been challenged by the father in the context of the English litigation:

    "[The father] was interviewed within the family home and denies manhandling his wife. He stated that he did not know why his wife had contacted the police; he stated that they had an argument following him coming home late from work (3am) and waking her and the baby. He maintained that this was because his wife was angry with him and not because he was aggressive towards her. He stated that they had been arguing more due to issues concerning the lack of support in caring for [M] whilst he works full-time. He explained that when [M] had been born the couple had extended family (maternal and paternal grandparents) around them for a few months and in addition they had a nanny. This has all changed in the last few months, with their families returning home and the nanny leaving their service. Consequently [the mother] is now primary carer for [M] whilst [the father] works quite long hours. He further stated that she was unhappy about the level of interaction they were having as a couple due to his work commitments." (my emphasis)

    And later,

    "The couple were initially supported by both paternal and maternal grandparents following [M's] birth however since November 2013 the couple have been the sole providers of [M's] care and due to [the father] working long hours this has left [the mother] to care for their son single-handed ….".

    That last paragraph was based on information provided to social services by the parents themselves.

    94. I have no hesitation at all in reaching the clear conclusion that the mother was indeed M's primary carer for the first year of his life and that the care she provided until he was deliberately retained by the father in Singapore was entirely appropriate in every respect. I am conscious that a similar finding was made by Russell J in her earlier judgment of MB v GK. It is important, nevertheless, for that finding to be supported by a free-standing finding of my own since, in the context of this welfare enquiry, I now have a much broader canvass of evidence to draw upon than that which was available to Russell J in the very early stages of this litigation. I am satisfied, and I so find, that this mother is deeply attached to, and loves, her son. I reject any suggestion that she was careless or neglectful in her duties as his mother. I am satisfied that she has pursued his return to this jurisdiction solely in his best interests as she perceives them to be. I entirely reject the father's case that she has used M as a pawn in these proceedings or as a means of manipulating some form of personal advantage in relation to either her financial situation or her ability to remain in the United Kingdom.

    95. Despite the fact that I have carefully read and considered the written statements of the grandparents which, in the main, support the catalogue of complaints which the father makes about the mother's relationship with M and her role as his mother, I am unable to place any weight or reliance on what they say in this regard. As I have said, they have throughout shown themselves willing to support their son's case to the extent, in recent weeks and months, of refusing to allow her indirect contact by telephone or Skype. I accept the mother's evidence that when she has called their home in Singapore using her own mobile telephone, the phone at the family home is never answered. I also accept that when she has called using a number which the grandparents would not recognise, the telephone call is terminated as soon as they hear her voice. This pattern appears to have continued notwithstanding the fact that the Singapore court has made its own orders for this form of contact between mother and son.

    96. The father places great weight in his written evidence about the mother's failed attempt to remove M from Singapore in August 2014 with assistance from the organisation known as "CARI". It is therefore something with which I need to deal. He argues that such an act of extreme irresponsibility disentitles her to lay claim to any full-time mothering role in the future.

    97. To an extent, I have already dealt in part with this episode in my earlier judgment in relation to forum conveniens (see paragraphs 70 and 71). The mother described her attempt to secure M's return to her care as an act 'of utter desperation and despair'. She told me during this hearing that her knowledge that M needed her had only increased her suffering at being parted from him. She had been put in touch with a family support group through Reunite, a well-known and respected organisation which seeks to assist parents (often through mediation) in cases involving international dimensions. The mother told me that she had heard through other parents about another (and wholly distinct) entity called CARI (the Child Abduction Recovery International) and made contact with that organisation. She had been told that they worked on behalf of both the British government and foreign governments to recover abducted children from all over the world. She says that they told her that they achieved their results by working in close co-operation with local police forces and law enforcement agencies. They had experience of working locally in Singapore and offered to assist. I accept that this is the information which was imparted to this mother; I make no findings about whether that information was true.

    98. Of the mother's state of mind at the time, she said this in one of her witness statements:-

    "I was finding it hard to cope day to day. I cannot begin to explain how I have felt during this time. I went to my GP almost daily, I had nightmares. I was taking medication. I was depressed and I wasn't thinking straight at this time. I couldn't sleep. I was desperately missing my son and not being able to nurture, love, play and laugh with him, teach, touch, even smell him; to watch him develop and learn."

    99. No court could ever condone what this mother did in this misguided attempt to retrieve her son. However, I consider that she is being truthful when she describes it as an act "of utter desperation and despair". She rejects the father's description of her ("a hardened criminal with no respect for the laws of Singapore") as one which fails to recognise the anguish which her enforced separation from her son was causing.

    100. Whilst I do not condone what she did, I can accept the extent of her distress at the time. I do not believe that her actions in adopting the course she chose were such as to disentitle her from caring for M in the future. She told me that she would be prepared to give any undertaking which was sought by this court to remain in this jurisdiction and make a home for M.

    101. In this context, I need to deal with her current immigration status since the father places much weight on the fact that she will very soon be homeless in London and unable to remain in England because of problems with her visa. I have already dealt with the position in relation to her future accommodation needs. At present, she will remain in the former matrimonial home until it is sold. That position has been sanctioned by the court through an occupation order and it is supported by the Bank which has agreed to hold its hand in the possession proceedings so as to enable a voluntary sale to proceed. In this context, it is important to remember that the father himself has been largely responsible for the predicament in which the mother currently finds herself.

    102. She came to the United Kingdom in 2011 on a spouse's visa. In 2014, in the context of his decision to divorce her, he cancelled her visa. Since she was studying at the time, she was able to secure a student visa which enabled her to remain in this jurisdiction for a further two years. She duly completed her diploma and I have seen the certificate from an accredited college confirming an award in business management at ABE Level 6. She has since instructed immigration lawyers who have lodged an application on her behalf to extend her leave to remain in the country. Since this application was submitted during a period when her leave to remain was extant, her current visa has been automatically extended whilst the Home Office deals with her current application. I was informed that the Home Office is aware of the litigation which is ongoing in relation to M. She has been advised that her application is almost certain to be approved. I was shown correspondence from her lawyers to this effect. I asked for further clarification as to her current status. On the following day of the hearing after this request was made, I was shown some email traffic between the mother's solicitors and her immigration lawyers. This confirms that her current application is for three years and that application is now progressing. Since the Home Office is obliged to carry out its functions in a way which takes account of the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, her lawyers are confident that the permission which the mother seeks will be granted.

    103. I am told that there are other options which can be explored in any event. Once the financial proceedings are concluded in March next year (2017), she may be entitled to apply for a visa as an entrepreneur. This, it seems, will involve demonstrating to the immigration authorities that she has disposable capital of £200,000.

    104. On balance, I am satisfied that the mother and M are likely to be able to remain living in this jurisdiction for at least the next three years and very probably beyond. In the event that he is returned, she has indicated that she will undertake not to remove M from this jurisdiction without the father's agreement or permission of the court. In these circumstances, I do not regard her current immigration status as an impediment to her current proposal to care for M on a full time basis in this jurisdiction.

    D. My conclusions

    105. Having conducted an in depth analysis of all the evidence which the parties have put before the English and Singapore courts, I have reached the clear conclusion that M's best interests lie in a return to his mother's care in this jurisdiction. I agree with the conclusion reached by District Judge Tan Peck Cheng delivered on 4 October 2016 that "there is no shred of evidence that there is a grave risk that the child's return would expose him to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable position" (paragraph 39 of her judgment). I made it very plain to M's grandparents on more than one occasion that I would have welcomed their participation in these proceedings if they had genuine concerns to raise about the mother. They have declined those invitations and I have had to proceed on the basis of their written evidence to the court. For reasons which I have explained, I have rejected their evidence insofar as they seek to portray her as a negligent and uncaring mother, just as I have rejected the evidence of the father.

    106. I acknowledge without reservation that M is now settled in his home surroundings in Singapore. On behalf of the mother, Mr Devereux is realistic in making that concession. I also accept that he will be well attached to his grandparents who have done a good job in caring for his physical needs over the best part of three years. However, a very important component element of M's world is missing from his life and I am satisfied that this element (his mother) will remain absent from his life for so long as he remains in the primary care of the paternal family or any one of its members. In advancing her clear recommendation to this court, the Guardian has taken well on board the fact that M is settled in Singapore. Because of the unwillingness of the paternal family to engage in any of her enquiries, she has had to carry out her assessment within the confines of the circumstances imposed upon her. Nevertheless, she remains resolute in terms of her professional view of where M's future best interests lie. She is, as I have said, a very experienced officer of the highly regarded High Court CAFCASS team.

    107. Whilst I have taken due account of the opinion of this experienced professional, I have nonetheless carried out an independent judicial analysis of the evidence and I have made my findings independently of her views. I have had the benefit of seeing the mother in the witness box and of hearing directly from her. I have also had the invaluable insight of the video recordings which are testament to the nature of the relationship between mother and son. Whilst I do not doubt the depth of the attachment between the father and M, I have found that he lacks any insight into the importance in M's life of his mother. I am wholly satisfied that if he remains in Singapore, M will be denied the opportunity of developing any meaningful relationship with her and that loss would be highly detrimental to his future psychological development. In contrast, I have found that the mother recognises and accepts M's need to remain an integral and attached part of his paternal family. They have an important role to play in teaching him about his cultural heritage. Importantly, the mother has been able to demonstrate by her own actions that she is able to translate that insight into positive action. She has been able to subjugate her own feelings and emotions in order to thank M's grandparents and acknowledge the role they played in his young life to date. She has done that despite their clear alignment with their son in this litigation. I have every confidence in her ability to continue to promote M's relationships with his extended family in the event that he is returned to her care in London.

    108. In the final analysis, the Guardian did not find this to be a finely balanced case and neither do I. I am wholly persuaded that it is overwhelmingly in M's best interests to be returned to the full-time care of his mother in this jurisdiction at the earliest opportunity. I intend to make an order to that effect. The optimum means of achieving his return would be for the mother to travel to Singapore at the earliest opportunity and return with M as had been envisaged by the order of District Judge Tan Peck Chang. I am entirely satisfied that she can offer a secure home to M in London and that is where he should be. She has an established support system of friends and professionals which is already in place but she is alive to the need to draw upon whatever professional help and support is made available to her here. I would invite the Guardian to visit M at home with his mother within days of her return to this jurisdiction, as Mrs Odze said she would. I am proposing to list the matter for further review at the earliest practicable opportunity once M has been returned. That will provide the court with an opportunity to consider what contact arrangements should be put in place between M and his father and paternal grandparents. It goes without saying that I would welcome whatever participation they wish to have in that hearing and I will, of course, consider any written proposals they wish to make in relation to their future contact with M. In the meantime, I am going to direct that the mother should facilitate Skype and telephone contact between M and his paternal family not less than twice a week at times to be agreed.

    109. I shall ask the parties' legal representatives to draw up an order reflecting my judgment. I am going to continue the wardship for the time being although I shall hear argument at the next hearing as to whether it should be discharged and, if so, when. I am going to direct that, following his return to the jurisdiction, M shall remain in the full-time care of his mother. There will be orders (i) prohibiting the father or anyone else from removing M from her care; and (ii) prohibiting the mother from removing M from this jurisdiction. Whilst I recognise and accept the importance of future contact between M and his paternal family, I do not propose to say anything further at this stage about how contact is to be arranged or whether it should be supervised (although I shall take a good deal of persuasion that some form of protective measures for M is not required at this juncture). The father's evidence is that he has no intention of setting foot in England again. The mother has demonstrated in her evidence that she is open to the possibility of contact taking place outside the jurisdiction if appropriate safeguards are put in place to prevent a future re-abduction of M by his father. The Guardian's views on this aspect of the case were canvassed during the course of her oral evidence to this court and she remains open to all and any sensible proposals for future contact. Thus, at this juncture, I do not propose to be prescriptive about contact arrangements, save to endorse the principle of ongoing contact between M, his father and his grandparents.

    Order accordingly

    1 This order had been made by learned Judicial Commissioner Ms Valerie Thean in the context of the father's appeal against an earlier order made by District Judge Tan Peck. His appeal was dismissed although the substantive "no order" provision in relation to M was varied to the limited extent of giving the father permission to apply to the Singapore Court in the event that he was able to return to Singapore.

    2 On 3 May 2016 the repossession proceedings in the Central London County Court were adjourned and were transferred to the High Court in order that they could be considered in conjunction with the ongoing litigation concerning M.

    3 Of the attempt to serve the mother with that order, the learned judge said, at paragraph 9 of her judgment, "An attempt to serve this order, which [the father] obtained in the ex parte hearing, took place when [he] and his Singaporean lawyer threw it at [her] at the airport as she was leaving the country".

    4 Following the mother's attempt to secure the child's return to the United Kingdom in August 2014, M's residence with his grandparents was endorsed by the local child protection services in Singapore which drew up a voluntary agreement with the second and third respondents. I have within the material before me a copy of that agreement from which it appears clear that its primary purpose was to secure M from the risk of further abduction and to maintain the existing status quo until a date some two weeks hence.

    5 Paragraphs 2 of their statements dated 18 November 2011

    6 Paragraph 50 of his affidavit dated 18 November 2016 filed in the Part III proceedings

    7 Paragraph 51 of the same document

    8 see paragraph 67 (as above)

    9 see paragraphs 68 and 69 (as above)

    10 see paragraph 247 of their statement dated 4 February 2016


Judgment, published: 12/01/2017

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Published: 12/01/2017

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