The Queen v Howes: 23 Nov 1860

a father sought the delivery to him of a girl of 15 who was unwilling to return to him, and had been brought into court in obedience to a writ of habeas corpus and interviewed privately by the judges before they heard argument. Cockburn CJ, giving the judgment of the court, said: ‘Now the cases which have been decided on this subject shew that, although a father is entitled to the custody of his children till they attain the age of 21, this court will not grant a habeas corpus to hand a child which is below that age over to its father, provided that it has attained an age of sufficient discretion to enable it to exercise a wise choice for its own interests. The whole question is, what is that age of discretion? We repudiate utterly, as most dangerous, the notion that any intellectual precocity in an individual female child can hasten the period which appears to have been fixed by statute for the arrival of the age of discretion; for that very precocity, if uncontrolled, might very probably lead to her irreparable injury. The Legislature has given us a guide, which we may safely follow, in pointing out 16 as the age up to which the father’s right to the custody of his female child is to continue; and short of which such a child has no discretion to consent to leaving him.’


Cockburn Cj


[1860] EngR 1190, (1860) 3 El and El 332, (1860) 121 ER 467




England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedIn re D (A Child) SC 26-Sep-2019
D, a young adult had a mild learning disability and other more serious conditions. He was taken into a hospital providing mental health services. The external door was locked, and a declaration was sought to permit this deprivation of his liberty, . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 27 April 2022; Ref: scu.286029