Family Law Hub

A v A [2013] EWHC 3554 (Fam)

Wrongful removal case where an ICO was made because the F was using the children as pawns and no regard whatsoever had been paid to their emotional welfare by the father.

  • Mrs Justice Parker had previously ordered the father ("F") to return the four children of the family (aged 12, 11, 8 and 3), who were wards of court, to this jurisdiction from Pakistan. F had not complied and said that there were difficulties with the children's passports and that the youngest, H, had never had one. The father agreed to return the children to the jurisdiction and Parker J ordered that he either send the older three back, returning later himself with H, or they all travel together. 

    In fact F returned with the older three leaving H in the care of his parents (aged 65 and 72) and a nanny in Pakistan. The order had provided for the children to reside with their mother ("M") if they came into the jurisdiction without F, or with F if he travelled with all of them, but with generous and frequent contact to M. Parker J was critical of F for leaving H in Pakistan so as to prevent the children being cared for by M.

    There had been some contact with M and the three older children, but this was very limited. Parker J formed the view that threshold had been crossed under Section 31 of the Children Act 1989 due to the children's separation from M. She rejected F's case that M had deliberately abandoned the children because she did not care about them which is why they wanted nothing to do with her. The judge formed the view that F was absolutely determined to exclude M from the children's lives. 

    Parker J made a s.37 direction and considered seeing the children to ascertain whether that would make a difference, but since the Guardian did not think that it would, this course of action was not pursued. The mother invited the court to make an interim care order. The local authority and the Guardian remained neutral on the point, but the former did not think an effective assessment would be possible if the status quo continued. 

    The judge considered whether there was an immediate risk of really serious harm to the children and concluded that they had been used as pawns and that no regard whatsoever had been paid to their emotional welfare by the father. He had been given every opportunity to comply with court orders and had only done so under threat of financial penalty. Daily contact with the mother would not improve matters and would be distressing. There was nothing that the father could do or say now that would change the children's minds about their mother. 

    The court made an interim care order for the children to be removed as "nothing else will do" with the matter being reviewed 12 days later. This was a difficult and painful decision. H was to be returned to the jurisdiction and placed in his mother's care. Permission to appeal and the application for a stay by the father were both refused. Judgment in respect of four children whom the father had been ordered to return to the jurisdiction from Pakistan. Interim care order made.

Case note, published: 14/01/2014

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See also

  • Following Mrs Justice Parker's order that 4 children be returned to England from Pakistan and F's acceptance that he would comply, 3 of the children did return with F but contact with M was extremely strained. Mrs Justice Parker reluctantly made an immediate ICO because the children were likely to be subjected to increasing emotional pressure and continuing significant harm if they stayed with their father. Judgment, 19/11/2013, free

Published: 14/01/2014

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