Children’s Voices Matter

You’re four years old. You’ve been illegally abducted from Romania by your Mum to go and live with her in England against your Dad’s will.

Normally, international law requires the English courts to promptly return you to your home country so you can resume your normal life there as quickly as possible. But what if, for whatever reason, the case doesn’t come before the English Courts for four years, and you’ve been living in England almost half your lifetime? You no longer have any memory of Romania and you vehemently want to stay in England with the friends and family you’ve had around for four years. Should your views be taken into account?

In this case, the Court recognised that all children are capable of being moral actors in their own right and that in cases like these each child should have the opportunity to be heard unless this appears inappropriate given their age or level of maturity.  This reversed the previous practice, which had been to first evaluate whether the child was of an appropriate age and maturity, and only to then let them speak if so. With this new ruling, many more children will have their voices heard than before.

The Court recognised that the child’s word would not be final, but that it was worthy of being a factor to be taken into account by the judges alongside all the other factors in the case before deciding whether it’s right to return a child back to their original country.

This story is a short summary of a legal decision. You can read the full text here

Media Coverage of this story