Boy to live with killer dad's family, court rules

By Sanchia Berg
Today programme

Published

A boy whose father is in jail for his mother's murder should live with the killer's sister and family in England, not his maternal grandparents in China - a family court judge has ruled.

The mother's parents argued it would be better for the six-year-old to come to them.

They said that as the victim's family, they shared his loss and were best placed to console him.

But experts told the court it would be better for him to stay in England.

A social worker, a court-appointed guardian and an independent psychiatrist all said it would be better for the boy to stay with his father's sister and her family as he barely knew his grandparents, and did not speak Cantonese.

The case was heard in April, but the judgement was only published this week.

media captionReporter Sanchia Berg assesses the "appalling tragedy" with child psychiatrist Tony Kaplan

'Close relative'

The boy's father had beaten his mother to death a year earlier, in what the judge called a premeditated and carefully planned attack. He maintains his innocence but was convicted in January, and sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum 28-year term. The boy was placed with foster parents.

The grandparents said the mother had been their only child together. The grandmother told the court the boy was the "most precious and most close relative" she now had.

They are wealthy people; the grandfather owns and runs two factories and they have two spacious homes, including a villa by the sea. They had found a private English school for the boy and an English-speaking nanny.

The grandmother described how the murder had disturbed the boy. She had been told he had started throwing stones at classmates and argued he would have a "quieter" environment in China where he would be "at peace".

Their lawyer argued the grandparents and the boy were the "true and only victims" in the case, and they were the best people to console him.

'Strangers'

However, the boy had only met his maternal grandparents once before the murder, on a visit to China when he was a toddler. They have no language in common.

A social worker said the boy was worried about going to China because his grandparents were strangers to him and he could not speak Cantonese. By contrast, he was very excited to spend time with his paternal aunt and her family.

A psychiatrist and guardian warned a move to China would be a huge upheaval and adjustment for a child still suffering from a huge emotional and psychological shock.

The judge, Mr Justice Holman, acknowledged that research suggested children in this situation would do better living with the victim's family, rather than that of the perpetrator.

But he said it should not be ruled out "if the prospective parenting family fully and sincerely acknowledge and accept the guilt [of the person who committed the crime] and ascribe no responsibility to the victim".

In this case, the sister accepted her brother was guilty and said she considered him a liar.

The judge said it was of "the utmost importance" the boy maintain contact with his grandparents in China, whether through face-to-face meetings or through Skype.

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