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Northern Ireland mum must hand boy to his Maltese dad

A woman from Northern Ireland must return her 10-year-old son to his father in Malta, a High Court judge has ordered.

Mr Justice Gillen granted an application brought under the Hague Convention on the grounds of the child's wrongful detention.

Although the boy spoke of wanting to remain in Northern Ireland, the judge held that his views were influenced by having spent the last three months living here with his mother.

He also warned of the potential consequences of a boy having to choose between “warring parents”.

Mr Justice Gillen said: “Both of these parties may in time feel the weight of fortune's frown unless they realise that damage to this child could be incalculable unless they take the responsibility of parenthood seriously.”

The couple lived in Northern Ireland for five years before settling in the husband's native Malta in 1996.

They split up a year after their son was born in 2002. The boy continued to live in Malta with his mother until May 2011 when an alleged drunken incident led to him being placed into his father's care.

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He came to Northern Ireland in July of this year for a one-month summer holiday with his mother.

Proceedings were triggered under the Hague Convention when the child was not returned to Malta.

The boy's mother defended the application by claiming it could expose him to physical or psychological harm. She also argued that her son objected to being returned and was old enough for his views to be taken into account.

In a judgment delivered last month but only published now, Mr Justice Gillen set out the boy was interviewed by the Official Solicitor.

The child said he liked living in Malta but had not enjoyed living with his father's girlfriend. At one stage he started crying and spoke of not wanting to go back to Malta as he would miss his mother.

However, Mr Justice Gillen detailed a series of undertakingS by the boy's father, including paying for flight tickets for the mother and son's return. He is also to allow his ex-wife access to their son three times a week and pledged not to invoke criminal proceedings in Malta against her.

Mr Justice Gillen also took into account how the boy said he liked living with his dad. “I do not consider the child's asserted objection is sufficient to dissuade me from ordering a return,” he said.

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