(Court of Appeal; Thorpe and Wall LJJ; 20 July 2006)
A 15-year-old child who was refusing to return to the mother in South Africa, the child's country of habitual residence, following a contact visit to the father in the UK, sought to be added as a party to the mother's Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction 1980 (Hague Convention) proceedings. She appealed the judge's refusal to add her, arguing that her age constituted exceptional circumstance and, alternatively, that exceptional circumstance was the wrong test to apply given the increasing emphasis in domestic cases on the autonomy of children.
The exceptional circumstance test had not been met simply by virtue of the child's age; the rare reported cases in which a child had been granted separate representation in Hague Convention proceedings were linked by the common thread of some public law dimension. The test for grant of party status to children in child abduction proceedings should certainly not be relaxed; if it were to be revised it should be made more stringent as child abduction cases needed to be conducted more summarily in order to comply with obligations under international and EC law.