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Children

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  • The father had brought the four-year-old daughter from Georgia to England in July 2020, without notice to the mother, who now applied for the child's summary return. The remaining issues were: (1) whether the court was bound by the decisions of the Georgian courts; (2) if not, whether the child had been habitually resident in Georgia when removed by her father in 2020; and (3) what, if any, protective measures should be put in place. It was plain, said Sir Jonathan Cohen, that the court in Georgia had not ruled on the question which he was asked to determine, and thus he was not bound by their decisions. He found that on the relevant date the child had been habitually resident in Georgia, and thus he would order her return. Discussion between the parents would need to take place before a further hearing, at which he would determine the remaining practical issues. Judgment, 15/10/2021, free
  • The father applied pursuant to the Hague Convention 1980 for the return of the three children (aged 5, 3 and 2) to Sweden, where they were habitually resident and had lived with the mother. The parents had shared joint custody, but the mother had removed them, without proper notification, to England, then Iraq, then back to England. The mother alleged domestic abuse during their marriage, and that the father and his family had previously abducted two of the children from her. She was described as having an abject fear of returning to Sweden, and the oldest son was said to share that fear. In Holman J's view, there was no doubt that she had abducted the children within the meaning and objects of the Hague Convention. If the father's alleged abduction of the children had been the trigger for removing the children, the circumstances and context of the case might have appeared markedly different, but following that incident she had been able to live with the children in Sweden for two years without molestation or interference from the father. None of her allegations came close to establishing an Article 13(b) defence. He ordered their return to Sweden forthwith, subject to various undertakings offered by the father. Judgment, 14/10/2021, free
  • A final child arrangements order had been made, and the child was to live with his mother. The father breached the order, abducting the child for seven days. He told the court that he had been planning the abduction ever since the order was made. He had borrowed a car and a flat from a friend in preparation. Arbuthnot J found the level of culpability to be high, and the level of harm to be medium. The child had found the abduction traumatic. Finding him had required much press involvement, and it was difficult to anticipate what the effect of those stories would be on the child's development. There were several aggravating factors. Arbuthnot J committed the father to prison for four months, to be released after two months, subject to recall and probation. Judgment, 13/10/2021, free
  • The father applied for the summary return of the daughter to a country in which he did not live, and which was not a signatory to the Hague Convention. The application would thus be determined according to the best interests of the child, who wished to remain in London. Both parents had left extremely unpleasant messages on the daughter's mobile phone, neither parent thought twice about disparaging the other in front of the daughter, and each went out of their way to seek to persuade her that the other parent was untrustworthy. In Poole J's view, the damaging effects of their conduct was plain to see. The father's contempt for the mother infected every aspect of his case, and he was often inconsistent in his evidence. The daughter was undoubtedly now habitually resident in England, and her wish to remain was absolutely clear. In Poole J's judgment, it would have taken exceptional countervailing factors to persuade the court that it was in her best interests to be returned against her will, and in fact the balance of other factors, having regard to the welfare checklist under s 1(3) of the Children Act 1989, also weighed in favour of not making such an order. The father's application was dismissed. Judgment, 13/10/2021, free
  • The mother had wrongfully retained the son in England at the end of an agreed six-month visit, and then, after a court-ordered return to Ukraine, she had wrongfully removed him to England. In Hague Convention proceedings intended to secure his son's return, the father applied for disclosure of material generated during the child's successful application for asylum in England. This material, the father argued, formed the basis upon which he was being denied a remedy in the Convention proceedings. Prior to asylum being granted, orders had been made (and upheld) requiring the child's return. The question now was whether the court had locus or jurisdiction to take any further steps in the 1980 Convention proceedings or if they had come to an end by operation of law. Roberts J acknowledged the father's frustration at being unable to enforce the orders which he had secured, and the potential unfairness of an asylum process in which he had no right to see or challenge the evidence submitted. However, she dismissed the application for disclosure of the asylum file, describing it in part as little more than a fishing expedition into the prospects of a collateral challenge to the Secretary of State's decision. The child's Article 8 rights, those of his mother and the wider policy considerations underpinning the confidentiality of the asylum process tipped the scales firmly in favour of refusing disclosure. Different considerations might apply in proceedings under the Children Act 1989 or otherwise. The return orders would be set aside. Judgment, 08/10/2021, free

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