Facts of the case:
The child at the centre of these proceedings was born on 26 May 2007, and was almost five years old at the time when the Court decision was given. It is alleged that the child was wrongfully removed to Ireland by the respondent, her mother. The applicant, who is the father of the child, sought an order for the return of the child to England. The father and the mother were never married to each other. It is not in dispute that the child was habitually resident in England in January 2012; that the father has parental authority and that his consent to the removal of the child to Ireland was not obtained. The mother requested that the court interview the child in order to ascertain her views prior to deciding whether to order the return of the child to England. The father opposed that application having regard to the age of the child.
Outcome of the case:
The High Court took into consideration the obligation to give the child an opportunity to be heard unless this appears inappropriate having regard to her age or degree of maturity. The Court also exercised its judgment on a wider basis as to the appropriateness of directly involving a young child in proceedings between her parents by giving her an opportunity to be heard notwithstanding that she may be the subject of the dispute. Courts, consistent with their obligations to have due regard for the rights of the child, should also assist the parents in protecting young children from being aware of or involved in their disputes. In light of all this, the High Court refused the mother’s request to interview the child by reason of her age.
3. In the proceedings, the applicant, who is the father of the child, seeks an order pursuant to Article 12 of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction ("the Convention") as implemented by the Child Abduction and Enforcement of Custody Orders Act 1991, for an order for the return of the child to England. It is alleged that the child was wrongfully removed to Ireland by the respondent, her mother, on or about 4th January, 2012. 15. In this application, neither party disputes that the Court should apply the principles set out in the judgment in MN. v. R.N. (Child Abduction)  1 I.R. 388, which were approved of by the Supreme Court in Bu v. Be (Child Abduction) 3 I.R.737.
16. It is not necessary for me to repeat in full the principles or the reasons thereof. Insofar as I now summarise them, I am not intending in any way to deviate from the fuller statement in MN. v. R.N. In summary, they are:
a. The starting point in the application of Article 11(2) is that the child should be given an opportunity to be heard. The Court is only relieved of that obligation if it would be inappropriate to do so either by reason of the age or degree of maturity of the child.
b. Article 11(2) should be applied having regard to Recital 33 of the Regulation so as to respect the rights granted to a child in Article 24 of the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights, and indirectly having regard to Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Hence the primary consideration of the Court in determining whether or not a child should be given an opportunity to be heard is whether on the evidence before the Court, the child appears prima facie to be of an age or level of maturity at which he or she is probably capable of forming his or her own views on matters of relevance to them in their ordinary everyday life.
c. In addition to the specific evidence before the Court in the case, a judge must inevitably rely on his or her own general experience and commonsense in determining the age at which prima facie a child is capable of forming his or her own view about matters of direct relevance to them in their ordinary everyday life.
d. In construing Article 11(2), the Court must also take into account the other subparagraphs of Article 11 including the requirement for expedition in Article 11(3).
32. In MN v. R.N., I expressed my conclusion on the proper construction of Article II (2) at para. 27 in the following terms:
‘Applying article II (2) so as to respect the rights granted to a child in article 24 of the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights (and having regard to the starting point of hearing the child as set out above), I have therefore concluded that the primary consideration of the court in determining whether or not a child should be given an opportunity to be heard is whether the child on the evidence appears prima facie to be of an age or level of maturity at which he is probably capable of forming his own views. I say prima facie for the following reason.’