Victim of race attack can remain at Belfast grammar, judge rules
An Asian boy at the centre of a legal battle over being admitted to a Belfast grammar school does not have to leave, a High Court judge has ruled.
Mr Justice Colton had identified procedural unfairness in an Exceptional Circumstances Body (ECB) decision requiring that a place be found for the 12-year-old, whose home came under racist attack.
But he rejected the school's arguments that continuing his education there would be harmful to his wellbeing and welfare.
The judge held it would not be in the boy's interests to insist he leaves a network of friends after settling in for two months.
"Any decision by this court to require him to be moved from School X, where he professes to be happy, is bound to be very distressing for him," he said.
"The removal of (the boy) from the school by a court order would in my view be a wholly undesirable outcome."
Anonymity orders imposed in the case prevent any of the parties being identified.
The boy, whose family have been granted political asylum in the UK, failed to gain the required score when he sat the AQE transfer test last year.
Despite scoring well below the minimum entry level, he was given a place based on circumstances linked to suspected hate crime against his family after they arrived in Northern Ireland.
Their home was attacked, a car was burnt and a racist letter left at the door of the property.
The boy, referred to only as AA, developed psychological symptoms afterwards. He was in constant fear and could not be left alone, the court heard.
His parents applied to the ECB in a bid to get him a place in the grammar school, citing the psychiatric trauma.
The board considered the case twice over the summer and issued the same direction both times that he should be admitted to the school. It concluded that it was essential for him to retain a close network of close friends also being educated there.
The school consented to him entering first year in August "under protest" and without prejudice to its legal challenge to the ECB.
Counsel for the school argued that it was not in the child's best interests to remain at the institution, due to his low academic performance.
Concerns were raised about the child's welfare if he continued to fall behind classmates.
The school's lawyers argued that it knew nothing about the first ECB hearing in July.
It was also claimed the principal was wrongly "kept in the dark" about the so-called network of friends during the second tribunal in August.
Mr Justice Colton backed submissions that there had been a procedural unfairness in the ECB's decision-making process.
But yesterday he resisted the school's submissions that the decision should be quashed or should be reconsidered by a different ECB panel.