The boy’s father took legal action in London in a bid to force his return from Africa
A mother who took her son to Sierra Leone because she thought he was at risk of joining a gang in London has won a court fight to keep him in Africa.
The woman, who comes from Sierra Leone, and her son, now 14, left London nearly a year ago after he was excluded from school and she became worried that he was getting involved with gangs.
She left the youngster with relatives in Sierra Leone, where she thought he would be better off, then returned to England.
Her estranged husband took legal action in London in a bid to force the boy’s return.
He said the boy was living in a country which was volatile and riven by civil strife.
The woman said the boy should stay in Sierra Leone until the summer of 2022, when he would have finished his GCSEs.
A judge has ruled in her favour.
Mr Justice Mostyn “noted” the scope of the curriculum at boy’s school in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, said he had no “serious concerns” about where he was living and care he was receiving, and he was not in a position to judge the political situation.
The judge outlined detail of the case in a written ruling published on Monday following a private, virtual hearing in the Family Division of the High Court.
He said the family could not be identified in media reports of the case.
The man and woman were both in their 30s and from Sierra Leone, he said.
They had met in London in nearly 20 years ago, married in 2005 and separated six years ago.
Mr Justice Mostyn said by early 2019, the boy, who was living with his mother in south London, had been “going off the rails”.
During the summer of 2019 he had been permanently excluded from his school.
“The consequence was that he would have to complete his education at what is known as a pupil referral unit where children are placed who have been expelled from their school,” said the judge.
“Unsurprisingly the mother viewed this prospect with dismay and feared that (his) education would be irretrievably impaired.
“In parallel with these events the mother gave evidence that (he) was getting involved in gang culture in his part of south London.”
She had discovered that her son had been given a telephone by a local gang for the purposes of becoming a drug courier across county lines, said the judge.
Mr Justice Mostyn said the woman had then decided to take her son to Sierra Leone, where her mother is a police officer, so he could continue his education in Freetown.
The boy had said he wanted to stay in Sierra Leone until he had finished his GCSEs.
His father asked the judge to order the woman to return him to England.
The man suggested that his son was: “in a country riven by civil strife which is unstable and volatile”, not in fixed accommodation, not having constant care, not at a “top rank” school and in a country with no national health system.
But Mr Justice Mostyn ruled against the boy’s father.
“I agree that the points made by the father have force although I do not accept that the quality of education being presently received by (the) in Freetown is unsatisfactory,” said the judge.
“I have noted the scope of the curriculum at his school and that it even includes learning Chinese.
“I do not have any serious concerns as to the quality of the accommodation, or the general care, being provided by the maternal family.”
He added: “I am not in a position to give any kind of definitive judgment as to the political situation in Sierra Leone.”
The judge said the woman’s application to keep her son in Sierra Leone until the summer of 2022 was granted.