Boy abducted by his ex-soldier mother to be returned to Lithuania
A boy abducted by his ex-soldier mother and brought to Northern Ireland is to be returned to Lithuania, the UK's highest court has ruled.
Supreme Court judges held that the nine-year-old child's grandmother had rights of custody which rendered his removal wrongful.
The majority verdict overturns a previous decision reached in the case by the Court of Appeal in Belfast.
The boy's grandparents launched a legal bid to get him back after he was allegedly snatched and bundled into a van while walking home from school.
He had lived with them from around his birth in 2005 until March 2012.
His mother had left him in their care so she could return to serve in the army.
She is then believed to have left Lithuania and moved to Northern Ireland in 2006, setting up home with a new partner.
In a legal battle which first went before the High Court it was established that some phone contact continued between the parties.
In February 2012 the boy's mother and her partner travelled to Lithuania intent on bringing him to Northern Ireland.
She claimed that she decided to take matters into her own hands after being advised that legal attempts to gain custody would be lengthy.
In her statement the woman said she and her partner abducted her son as he walked home from school with the grandmother.
She described a tug-of-war between her and the grandmother, with both gripping the boy at the same time.
The grandmother alleged that after a van drew up she heard the child's mother shouting: "Pull him, pull him."
It was claimed that a man jumped out and grabbed him.
When she refused to let him go the van door was shut on her hand, inflicting injuries which required hospital treatment.
The boy was transported via Slovakia, Germany, France and England back to Northern Ireland.
He has since started to attend a local primary school and appears to have settled down after a difficult start.
In June last year a High Court judge refused the grandparents application under the Child Abduction and Custody Act 1995 for the child to be returned to Lithuania.
He held that they had failed to establish the existence of a right of custody at the date of the abduction.
On that basis the boy's removal did not breach any rights of the grandparents in Lithuanian law.
The Court of Appeal upheld that decision on the basis that the grandmother arguably had custody rights up to the start of March 2012.
By that stage a power of attorney was discharged.
However, the Supreme Court has now allowed an appeal to that decision.
It found that the grandmother did enjoy rights of custody which meant the child's removal from Lithuania was wrongful.
Judges ordered that he should be returned "forthwith".
A 21-day stay was imposed to allow the boy's mother a final opportunity to make any late arguments against the outcome.
Belfast Telegraph Digital