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  • A fact-finding hearing within proceedings brought under the inherent jurisdiction for the return of two children, aged 8 and 6, to an unnamed country to which the 1980 Hague Convention did not apply. The court had previously refused an application for a summary return of the children to that country, and had set the case down for this fact-finding hearing. Whilst in that country, the mother had come to believe that the father was sexually abusing the younger child. Following the authorities' refusal to prosecute, and an application to end contact being refused, the mother had removed the children from that country to the United Kingdom without the father's permission. Judd J noted that a comparison between the mother's account of what the children had said in her recordings of them with the recordings themselves revealed that, for the most part, the children did not say the words the mother attributed to them, and where they did so, it was after persistent and suggestive questioning from the mother. In Judd J's view, the way in which the questioning was conducted created precisely the conditions whereby false allegations emerge. The mother's perception of what the children were saying in the recordings was so distorted that it made it very difficult to place any reliance on her evidence as to what the children said outside of them. The medical evidence was inconclusive. In all the circumstances, Judd J came to the clear conclusion on the balance of probabilities that the father had not sexually abused the child, but also, among other findings, that the mother's belief as to the sexual abuse had been genuine, albeit misguided. Both parties were encouraged to reflect upon what had happened, and to give careful consideration to what should happen to the children in the future. Judgment, 31/07/2021, free
  • The wife had previously sought to register and enforce the financial provisions of a 2010 French order through the English courts, but rather than applying under the Maintenance Regulation in the Family Court had made the application in the High Court. The mistake came to light in March 2020. An application for rectification had failed since there was insufficient evidence for the court to be satisfied that the husband was habitually resident or had assets in England, and previous orders for enforcement were declared null and void. The wife now appealed against this decision on the ground that the judge had erred in failing to find the conditions in FPR PD 34E para 4 to have been satisfied, but her appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal on the basis of the respondent's notice, which argued that the court had made an error of law in finding that FPR 4.1(6) was sufficiently wide to allow the relief sought by the wife. The wording of FPR 4.1(6) did not provide for rectification, only for variation or revocation. In King LJ's judgment, even if FPR 4.1(6) had been engaged and an order of variation made, the court could not possibly justify backdating the order to September 2017 when the evidence necessary for the making of the order had not been before the court at the time the original order was made. It was therefore unnecessary for the Court of Appeal to hear argument in relation to FPR PD 34E. Lewison LJ and Sir Nicholas Patten agreed. The appeal was dismissed. Judgment, 31/07/2021, free
  • The court had two questions to consider. Was the 12-year-old son habitually resident in the jurisdiction of England and Wales? If so, should the court grant the mother's application for an order under its inherent jurisdiction requiring the son to be returned from the jurisdiction of Pakistan? The father contended that the son was now habitually resident in Pakistan, where he was attending a private school. A report from the Cafcass Family Court Adviser detailed the son's understanding of the circumstances by which he came to be in Pakistan, including that he and his parents had discussed him attending school in Pakistan prior to his mother taking him there in October 2020, and that he had understood he would be staying there for a significant period of time. MacDonald J decided that the boy had demonstrated a degree of integration in a social and family environment in Pakistan sufficient to ground the conclusion that he was habitually resident there. For example, the boy had settled into his new school and clearly saw that education as his gateway to personal success. Accordingly, this court did not have jurisdiction, and the mother's application was dismissed. Judgment, 30/07/2021, free
  • Two young people of Spanish nationality, aged 17 and 14, applied to the court for declarations in respect of their status with a view to taking further proceedings to regularise their legal status. After being detained in France over the 2020 summer holidays as a result of applications made to the Spanish courts by the father, they were currently unable to travel outside of the jurisdiction of England and Wales for fear of their detention or retention, and the possible arrest of their mother. The applicants invited the court to consider making final orders that they would live with their mother, and they sought a new child arrangements order. Russell J DBE unhesitatingly accepted the submission that the facts of this case were exceptional, and it fell within s 9(7) of the Children Act 1989, so an order was required in respect of the older child despite her age. The circumstances of the case required an order reflecting the situation in real terms and releasing the applicants (and their mother) from any legal obligations to spend time with the father. There was no doubt that the children were habitually resident in this jurisdiction and that this court had jurisdiction over matters relating to parental responsibility for them. Judgment, 27/07/2021, free
  • The mother, a Sudanese national with indefinite leave to remain in the UK, applied under the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court for the children to be made wards of court and for an order mandating the return of the children to the jurisdiction of England and Wales from the jurisdiction of Sudan. That application was resisted by the father, a British citizen born in Sudan. In 2017 the mother and children had travelled to Sudan, for reasons that were disputed between the parties, and the mother alleged that the children's passports had been taken from her and not returned. A 2021 passport order had required the father to deliver up the passports of the children to the Tipstaff, as well as his own. The issues for the court to determine at this final hearing were whether this was an appropriate case for the court to exercise its residual parens patriae jurisdiction; if so, whether the children should be made wards of court and a return order granted under the inherent jurisdiction; and whether the passport order should continue or be discharged. In MacDonald J's view, it was not appropriate for the court to exercise its residual parens patriae jurisdiction. The children were habitually resident in Sudan, which was the convenient forum for determination of welfare issues, and the evidence demonstrated no sufficiently compelling reason that the children required the protection of this court. The mother's application was dismissed, and the passport order was discharged. Judgment, 12/07/2021, free

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