03 June 2005


Tristan father could face prosecution in Ireland

03 June 2005
Dan Buckley

THE Irish father of Tristan Dowse — the little boy left in a legal limbo in an Indonesian orphanage — could face prosecution here on charges of abandoning his son.
The Government is also to review legislation involving foreign adoptions in the wake of the affair.

In the meantime, Attorney General Rory Brady is taking take High Court proceedings against both parents in a bid to clarify the legal position of the adopted three-year-old.

Mr Brady will seek an order from the High Court to compel Joe and Lala Dowse to take care of the boy under constitutional provisions relating to the family.

The case is being taken in the hope that the couple will then take legal action to deregister the adoption in Ireland, freeing up the Irish and Indonesian authorities to find a solution relating to the legal quagmire involving the boy and to enable him to be readopted.

Joe Dowse, from Wicklow, may face prosecution if found to have abandoned his child under law without due care.

The Dowses adopted Tristan when he was two months old, but Mr Dowse returned him to an orphanage when he was two years of age, claiming the adoption “wasn’t working out.”

Minister for Children Brian Lenihan said his department was examining whether the return of Tristan Dowse to an orphanage by his adoptive parents was illegal and whether the law governing adoptions abroad needed to be tightened.

“This may be a case of an Irish citizen abroad who had abandoned an Irish child and we will be reviewing this to see if it was improper and what the consequences for this are under Irish law,” he said. Three-year-old Tristan faces spending the rest of his childhood in an institution unless he is re-adopted soon.

Officials in Indonesia have warned that if the legal quagmire is not sorted out before Tristan reaches the age of five, he cannot be adopted.

Under Indonesian law, children become ineligible for adoption at that age.

Tristan turns four this month and has already endured around two years in legal limbo. It is feared that further legal wrangles could now leave him trapped in an institution until he reaches the age 18.

The Indonesian authorities say Tristan’s adoption was illegal, and that it will take several months to get this situation rectified through their courts. In Ireland, a High Court action will seek to have Tristan’s name removed from the adoption register. Only when both these processes are complete can Tristan’s readoption process begin.

The registrar of the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI), Kiernan Gildea, said: “He simply isn’t eligible for adoption after the age of five and would probably have to stay in an institution until he reaches 18. We are certainly aware of the urgency and that time is running out for him.”

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