A judge has decided against returning two boys at the centre of an Anglo-Irish family court fight to their father – after analysing evidence from the man’s nine-year-old son.
The boy had told how his father had hit him and said would he would be “sad, crying and worried” if he had to go back.
Mrs Justice Theis concluded that the youngster had “attained an age and degree of maturity” at which it was “appropriate to take account of his views”.
The judge said he had expressed “genuine” fears“ and had a ”rational base“ for his opinions.
Detail has emerged in a written ruling by Mrs Justice Theis after a private hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London.
She said the family could not be identified. The children’s mother had left their father in the Republic of Ireland and travelled to England with their sons - aged nine and two, the judge said.
She had complained that the man had been violent towards her and the boys.
Mrs Justice Theis said the man had denied the allegations and asked her to order the children’s return to Ireland – under their terms of an international convention.
But she refused after the nine-year-old boy said he could not go back because his father “hits him”.
A specialist had interviewed the youngster and provided a report.
He had had been shown “emotions stickers” and asked how he would feel if his father walked through the door.
The youngster had picked a “scared face” to depict himself and an “angry face” to depict his father, the judge was told.
“He repeated that he can’t go back to Ireland as his father hits him,” said Mrs Justice Theis in her ruling. “He said he would be sad, crying and worried if he went back to Ireland.”
The judge said the boy had been asked “if he had three wishes, what would they be?”
She added: “He replied: ’for his dad to die’. He corrected himself and said: ’for him to go away forever’.”
The man had denied the allegations made against him by his eldest son and his estranged partner.
A lawyer representing the man said the judge should be “cautious” about accepting that the nine-year-old boy had a “level of maturity” which made it “appropriate” to take account of his views.
But the judge said it was right to consider the age and maturity level of a nine-year-old boy.
But she said the youngster had expressed “genuine” fears.
“In my judgment (the nine-year-old boy) objects to being returned to Ireland and has attained an age and degree of maturity at which it is appropriate to take account of his views,” she said.
“The fears expressed by (him) were genuine and strongly held.”
She added: “The views expressed by (him) are, in my judgment, clear. His objection to being sent back to Ireland is founded on the violence he reports he suffered from his father and he genuinely believes he would not be safe.”
Mrs Justice Theis said the boy’s “emotional state” was “particularly concerning”.
“It is right to carefully consider his age and level of maturity and what is said about that level of understanding, but it is clear in the way he expressed himself (that) he has a rational base for his views,” she said.