Commenting on reports that judges are using contempt laws to jail parents who abduct children from the UK, Jeetesh Patel, family law partner says that until countries outside the Hague convention are encouraged to participate, the UK has little clout.
News this week that a father has been jailed for a year after failing to return his two daughters to the UK from Libya sends an important message about the UK’s determination to protect children from being abducted from their home country.
But, according to Jeetesh, when children are held illegally by a parent in Libya, as in this case, or other Middle Eastern countries outside the Hague Convention, realistically, the UK can do little to intervene.
“We are putting down our marker that, as ever, the safety of children is paramount and that anyone returning a child to the UK may have their sentenced reduced. But apart from alerting Interpol and making a child a Ward of Court once the parent left behind has alerted the authorities, people in countries outside the Hague Convention can simply go into hiding.
“We make an order to the parent to return the child to the UK and make it clear that abduction is a criminal offence and that they can be arrested on their return. But, ultimately, we have no power in certain countries,” Jeetesh says.
“Judges are trying their best to impose the law but the only way to improve the safety of vulnerable British children is to persuade the governments outside the Convention to join. Committing an abductor to prison is not a remedy for the child’s return but is exerting pressure that the Judges will not tolerate abductors ignoring Court orders.”