(Family Division, Baker J, 26 April 2013)
The man and woman claimed that the woman had given birth to the child in Ghana in 2006 but the authorities were concerned that he appeared to be older than his given age. A consultant paediatrician concluded that the boy's physical and neurodevelopmental skills were more usual in a boy over 10. In care proceedings DNA testing concluded that the man and woman were not his parents but showed some biological connection.
The woman accepted she was not the mother but claimed she had given birth to a child who had died and she was encouraged by her husband's mother to take care of his younger sibling. The father was not informed. A forensic odontologist placed the child's age at 15-16 while a paediatric endocrinologist concluded it was approximately 14. On the facts his entry to the UK was illegal and he was liable to be removed.
The local authority, abandoning its case for a care order, now sought a declaration as to the child's age. The guardian invited the court to hear evidence and decide if an order should be made. After hearing the evidence the local authority conceded that a supervision order should be put in place.
The judge found that the child was 14 years old and that the husband and wife's evidence on all aspects of the child's age, identity and background had been concocted. He did not accept that the husband knew nothing about it. Their deception had caused the child significant emotional harm although their physical care of him had been very good. It was more likely than not that to some extent they had involved the child in the deceit causing further psychological damage.
The recommendation of the professionals was accepted that it was in the child's best interests to remain in the care of the husband and wife under a residence order and 12-month supervision order.