Belfast Telegraph

Tug-of-love boy must be sent back to his gran in Lithuania

By Alan Erwin

A boy who was abducted by his mother in a tug-of-love battle with his grandmother is to be returned to Lithuania, the UK's highest court has ruled.

The nine-year-old boy's mother snatched her son as he walked home from school with his grandmother and bundled him into a van – the first step on a journey across Europe to Northern Ireland.

In her statement the woman – an ex-soldier who had moved to Northern Ireland in 2006 – stated she went back to Lithuania in February 2012 with her partner, intending to get her son.

She described a tug-of-war in the street 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 the boy.

When the grandmother refused to let him go, the van door was shut on her hand, inflicting injuries which required hospital treatment.

The boy's grandparents then launched a legal bid to get him back.

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 to serve in her country's army.

But she is believed to have left Lithuania and moved to Northern Ireland in 2006, setting up home with her new partner.

The mother claimed that she had decided to take matters into her own hands after being advised that legal attempts to gain custody would be lengthy.

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.

Last June, 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 in Belfast 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 overturned the decision reached by the Court of Appeal by a majority verdict.

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.

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