Belfast Telegraph

Canadian father with drink and drug addictions loses High Court battle to have son (3) returned from Northern Ireland

By Alan Erwin

A Canadian father with drink and drug addictions has lost a High Court battle to have his son returned from Northern Ireland.

The man was seeking an order that the three-year-old child's mother unlawfully removed him in breach of custody rights.

But a judge in Belfast dismissed the case after ruling that sending the boy back to Canada would put him at grave risk of physical or psychological harm.

With the father suspected of having cocaine and alcohol dependencies, Mr Justice O'Hara said he behaved "outrageously and in the most damaging way".

In one incident it was claimed that police in Canada investigating reports he had stolen his wife's wedding and engagement rings to pay a drug debt found him at a strip club.

On another occasion he was seriously injured after crashing his car while drink-driving.

Neither the man nor his estranged wife, who is from Northern Ireland, can be named to protect heir child's identity.

It was agreed in the case that the boy, referred to as Q, was wrongfully removed and retained under the terms of the Hague Convention dealing with international child abduction because his father's custody rights were breached.

That meant the child's mother had to prove exceptional circumstances in order to stop the court ordering his return.

The couple married in Northern Ireland in 2007 and then moved to live in Canada.

Amid a volatile relationship their son, referred to as Q, was born in 2011.

Last year the boy's mother decided to come back to Northern Ireland, taking him with her. They have not returned since.

She did not claim her husband consented to Q going, but contended that he subsequently acquiesced to that state of affairs. 

She also alleged that forcing Q to go back to Canada would place him in an intolerable situation.

Her husband's drink and drug addictions were said to be the fundamental reasons for those fears.

As well as the wedding ring incident, the court heard details of a separate occasion where a police entry recorded him as being intoxicated, having two knives and not care if he was shot.  

Canadian police described the man as "an admitted cocaine and alcohol user" who has "numerous arguments with family over his ongoing drug and alcohol use".

The mother claimed that after telling her husband last March that she she had no intention to return to Canada he responded by email to suggest moving to "somewhere fun" like London or Rome.

In a newly published judgment Mr Justice O'Hara rejected her case that Q's father acquiesced to the situation.

But deciding she had done all she can to raise her child responsibly, the judge exercised his discretion to dismiss her husband's application.

He said: "In all these circumstances I conclude that Q is at grave risk of physical or psychological harm or of being placed in an intolerable situation if his return to Canada is ordered. 

"His father has been abusing drugs and alcohol for many years.  There is no evidence that he has stopped beyond his own assertions which are extremely unreliable. 

"I conclude that the grave risk is a direct one to Q from his father's conduct and an indirect one as a result of the effect which that pattern of conduct would have on his mother." 

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