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Are European Judgements Enforceable in England? Not If They’re Unfair!

Judgments given in one EU member state are generally enforceable in all the others, but there are exceptions. One such arose in the case of a three-year-old girl who was removed from Ireland and taken to England by her mother without notice of the move having been given to the father.

The parents separated soon after the girl’s birth but the father had enjoyed regular contact with his daughter before her mother took her to England. After he launched proceedings, an Irish judge granted him sole custody of the child. An English judge subsequently made orders that recognised the Irish judgment and opened the way for its enforcement in England.

In upholding the mother’s appeal against the latter decision, however, the High Court found that neither she, nor her daughter, had been given a fair hearing in Ireland. Despite her youth, the girl had a right to be heard in the proceedings, if only through the voices of her parents, but had been afforded no such opportunity.

The Irish judge had reached his potentially momentous decision on the evidence of the father alone, without even hearing from the mother. There was no evidence that she had been formally notified of the father’s application and she had been given no sufficient opportunity to prepare a defence.

The Court also noted that, despite being named on the girl’s birth certificate, the father had no parental responsibility for the child under Irish law and thus had no legal standing to object to her removal to England. In the circumstances, the Irish judgment would neither be registered nor enforced in England.

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