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Court rules 'abducted' boy should stay in Malta

A Maltese court has upheld a plea by a 15-year-old British boy to continue to live in Malta with his father after his mother filed court proceedings claiming he had been abducted.

The mother instituted her proceedings through the Director for Social Welfare Standards.

She said that her two sons, born in 1995 and 1996 in the UK were being illegally held in Malta by their father, also a Briton.

The parents are divorced but the father had access to the children, who were under the care of the mother. The mother had agreed in January 2010 to send the children to Malta to spend a few days with their father after he told her he had terminal illness. They were supposed to have returned home on January 29 but the father eventually informed his former wife that they would continue to live with him.

Eventually, the younger son opted to return to the UK and proceedings in his case were therefore dropped.

However, the older son told the judge that he wished to continue to stay in Malta and reside with his father, as he has done for the past few months. He said that in the UK he was living with his half-brother and his boy friend in a rented house while his mother lived separately with his younger brother in the residence of his maternal grandmother.

He also said that he liked the Maltese way of life, he had made friends here and also had a part-time job.

The Court observed that since the boy is still under 16, the Child Abduction and Custody Act applied. However the law included an exception to the rule of the immediate return of the child where "the child objects to being returned and has attained an age and degree of maturity at which it is appropriate to take account of its views."

The court said that after having heard the child, it would be in his best interests if he was not taken back.

"This Court, as noted, had an open and frank discussion with the child who outlined his objections to returning to England; notes of the child’s statements were taken down in writing, but have been sealed by Court order at the express wish of the child. The child noted that he has been living in England under the control of his mother for the last 10 years, and now wishes to remain in Malta to live in a family environment with his father.

"He likes Malta and believes that his father is showing much more interest in his welfare than his family in England ever did.

"The child pointed out the state in which he was forced to live in England, how he ended up living with his half-brother and his partner, and how the prospect of living in a cramped environment with his mother and grand-mother was not appealing to him. The child also referred to his mother’s past stint with alcoholism and his fears in this regard which would, of itself, justify a refusal of a return. Mention was made of the difference in tratment between himself and his brother by his mother," the court said.

It therefore dismissed the appeal by the Director for Social Welfare Services, made on behalf of the mother.

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