Girl 'hidden' in Shropshire by mother must return to Italy, rules High Court judge

A "delightful" little girl who was hidden away in Shropshire after her mother "abducted" her from Italy will be heading home after a High Court ruling.

The girl, who is not yet in her teens, was tracked down to the county after she went missing from her homeland early last year.

Her desperate father, who is separated from her mother, fought an international legal battle to get her back.

Now, after meeting the girl in person, top judge Mr Justice Hayden has ordered her return to Italy.

He did so despite her mother's pleas that they would be penniless there and that she might even be jailed for child abduction.

The judge prevented publication of any details which may lead to the identification of the child.

Describing her as "a striking and delightful young girl", the judge said she had shown touching interest in his judicial wig.

"She was intrigued that it was horse hair and thought it rather scratchy and uncomfortable," he told London's High Court.

Able to speak "faultless" English, the youngster's affection for the UK was "both sincere and strong", the judge added.

But he had no doubt that her wish to stay in England was "not wholly authentic", having been "coloured and influenced by her mother's own wishes".

The mother had spirited her away to Britain in breach of the international ban on child abduction, he said.

The courts in Italy had granted joint custody of the child to both her parents and there was no dispute that she was "habitually resident" in Italy.

By running away with her daughter, the mother had ridden roughshod over the father's rights, the court heard.

The judge acknowledged that the mother would face financial difficulties in Italy and would be at risk of being locked up.

That would be "traumatic" for her daughter, who had suffered much "upheaval and relocation" in her young life and was "settled and happy" in England.

He also accepted that the mother had been "motivated by a determination to provide a better quality of life" for her daughter in the UK.

But the judge said it was his duty to uphold the cross-border child abduction ban and that the girl's future should be decided by the Italian courts.

Ordering her return before the end of the summer, the judge rejected claims that the girl would be "at grave risk of harm" if returned to her homeland.

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