Dutch court allows runaway teenager who wanted to sail around the world to stay with father

The Associated Press ~ staff The News
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AMSTERDAM, Netherlands - A Dutch court ruled Wednesday that 14-year-old sailor Laura Dekker can remain in her father's custody after she ran away from home and travelled alone to the Caribbean.
The ruling by the Utrecht District Court clears the way once again for Dekker to pursue her goal of becoming the youngest person to sail solo around the world.
"The court sees no need to remove Laura from her home at his moment," judges said in a written ruling.
Laura had originally planned to depart this year with the support of her father. But that plan was blocked by the court in October, which ordered her to prepare more and wait at leas until 2010 before starting. It also ordered her to undergo scrutiny by social workers.
Frustrated by the regime she was subjected to, and with her grades slipping, she fled last week with about $5,000, prompting an international search.
She travelled to Paris and used a New Zealand passport to catch a flight to the Dutch Caribbean territory of St. Maarten. Laura has dual nationality because she was born on a boat in New Zealand while her parents were sailing around the world.
She was spotted on St. Maarten and returned to the Netherlands Tuesday. Child welfare authorities had asked the court to place her with another family for three months after she ran away, but that request was denied.
Judges said Laura's father Dick and social workers had clashed on what she needed to do to prepare for her trip.
"It appears that child welfare authorities and the father weren't able to co-operate on drawing up a plan of attack," judges said.
"Because of this, Laura became caught in a downward spiral."
Her father praised Wednesday's decision for clarifying the conditions Laura must satisfy in order to get permission to depart on her trip next summer.
Laura's mother Babs Muller had left the court in tears earlier Wednesday.
"They know everything much better," she told reporters, pointing to the courthouse. "They know what's best for my child."
Under Dutch law, Laura is considered a minor until she is 18 years old.
The youngest person to sail solo around the world is 17-year-old Mike Perham of Britain. Australian 16-year-old Jessica Watson, is currently trying to beat Perham's record.

Organizations: Utrecht District Court

Geographic location: Netherlands, Caribbean, AMSTERDAM New Zealand St. Maarten Paris Britain

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