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Father wins leave to remove daughters in face of mother's false allegations

17 May 2016
A father has been granted leave to remove his three daughters permanently from the UK to relocate to Nigeria following the grant of a Female Genital Mutilation Protection Order in respect of the girls, based on their mother's false allegations.

The clarification was delivered in the recent Court of Appeal case of Re R (A Child) [2016] EWCA Civ 1016. 

This case - Re E (Female Genital Mutilation and Permission to Remove) [2016] EWHC 1052 (Fam) - involved a father's successful application for permission to relocate the three girls (now 13, 10 and years old), to Nigeria, following the breakdown of his relationship with their mother, after their mother had made various very serious false allegations against him, including an allegation that he intended to remove them to Nigeria so that the abhorrent practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) could be carried out on the two eldest girls.The parents were married in Nigeria in 2001, where the father was now living, in a comfortable four bedroom property, in a major city there. He has his own engineering company. He had travelled from Nigeria to the UK to attend the High Court hearing and represented himself at the hearing. The mother was legally represented.

The court found that the couple had come to the UK with their children for the purposes of a holiday in December 2012, and were granted a visitors' visa valid for 2 years and that, by agreement between the parents, the father then returned to Nigeria and the mother stayed on with the children in the UK.

In 2014 the mother made an application for leave to remain, alleging (which he denied) that she and the father had been divorced in Nigeria in June 2013 and that she was then married to a Lithuanian national. Her application was rejected on the grounds that her alleged marriage to the Lithuanian man was a sham, for immigration purposes.

In July 2015 the mother first made allegations of FGM against the father, swiftly followed by a claim for asylum, based on the alleged threat of FGM to the children. She then stopped all contact between the father and the children.

Shortly after this, the local authority became involved with the family, partly as a result of the concerns raised by the mother and latterly as a result of the poor level of care provided by the mother to her three daughters. An independent social worker carried out a parenting assessment of the father in Nigeria, which was positive in relation to his parenting abilities.

The court also had the benefit of a report from a local authority social worker, who found the mother to be very isolated in the UK, with no support network. She found the mother was not a position to provide stability for the children, had overstayed her visa, was at risk of being evicted and being deported, was not supportive of their learning at school and had no definite long-term plans to safeguard the children's welfare.

The children reported that their mother stayed in bed in the mornings, so that the eldest child had to get up early in order to get herself and her sisters ready for school. She was also reported to have been speaking to them inappropriately about her own experiences of FGM and frightening them by alleging that their father intended to harm them.

The local authority recommended that the children should be placed in the care of their father and stated they would consider issuing care proceedings, if that did not happen. The mother continued to allege that the children were at risk of FGM at the hands of the father, that this risk justified the continuation of the FGM order which had been obtained on her without notice application, and that this was reason enough to dismiss the father's application to remove the children permanently from the jurisdiction. She wanted the children to remain living with her in London.

The father was adamant in his denials that he presented any risk of harm (including the harm of FGM) to his children if they were returned to his care in Nigeria, where he had arranged suitable school placements for each of them. He offered to facilitate contact by Skype in the event that the mother remained in England and emphasised the insecure and deprived situation they would be in, if left in the care of their mother in the UK.

Having heard the evidence, Mr Justice MacDonald determined that the mother's allegations made against the father were all false, that there was no appreciable risk of the children being subjected to FGM if they were returned to the care of their father in Nigeria, and that it was in each of the children's best interests for the father to be given permission to remove them to Nigeria.

Maeve O'Higgins Family Law Partner, Burlingtons Legal | Email: maeve.ohiggins@burlingtonslegal.com, Tel: +44 (0) 207 529 5420

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