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BBC Child Abduction

I appeared today, 22 November 2011, on the Phil Upton Breakfast Show for BBC-WM. The topic was Child Abduction and this followed a story about a father in Cannock who had spent the last six months trying to secure the return of his child.
Whilst statics are not particularly reliable, over the last year there have been some four hundred children abducted from the jurisdiction of England and Wales to other countries around the world. I made the point on the radio that whilst this is very worrying, equally there are a similar amount of children abducted into this country from elsewhere in the world.
What can be done? Like anything in life prevention is better than cure.
If a parent fears that his/her child may be taken away from this country then it should be reported to the Police first of all. The Police also have power to direct an all sea and airport alert where the removal of the child is real and imminent. At the same time, that parent should take immediate legal advice.
The Family Court have a raft of powers to try and stop the abduction. For example, a Prohibited Steps Order can be made and once served it is there to forbid a parent or person from removing a child from this jurisdiction of England and Wales.
However, there are many cases where the first a parent knows is by the fact the child has already gone. Much will depend then on whether or not the country the child has been taken to is a signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention or not. In 2010/11 there were one hundred and sixty one cases of children being taken to countries not signed up to this global child abduction treaty. This is an increase from one hundred and forty six children in the previous year. Pakistan, Thailand and India were the most common abduction destinations last year and among the ninety seven countries that have not ratified the 1980 Hague Convention. The Hague Convention itself is an attempt to provide a legal framework and a means therefore for parents to apply for the return of their child. Clearly, the lack of international agreement in certain countries makes negotiations very difficult.
There needs to be greater education so that the public are aware of the existence of the Child Abduction Unit within the Ministry of Justice and also the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Organisations such as the charity Reunite (www.reunite.org) can also provide advice and guidance. There also needs to be greater education to help prevent child abduction with agencies such as the Police. At the same time, and whilst attempts are being made, what at a state level can be done to bring other countries on board to the 1980 Hague Convention and from where a country is a signatory to it, to ensure that they actually comply with this legal convention.
The father in Cannock is seeking to bring a petition to allow a debate in Parliament to raise awareness generally. This is a very important issue and sadly parental child abduction is more common than people believe. The psychological impact for the parent left behind must be profound but that is to be considered also in terms of the psychological impact for the child who is separated from his or her parent.
Maguire Family Law is a specialist firm of Family Law and Divorce Law solicitors based in Cheshire. We offer legal advice to parties going through a divorce including the financial issues which flow from this (including pensions), linked business issues, international aspects and any relevant issues concerning the children. We also offer legal advice in relation to matters covered in this blog and general Children Law advice.
We advise clients in the Wilmslow area and also to the surrounding areas of Alderley Edge, Bramhall, Hale, Altrincham, Manchester and the North West. We are also able to act for clients nationally and internationally subject to the jurisdiction of England and Wales. For advice please contact James Maguire by telephone +44 (0) 1625 544650 or by email james.maguire@family-law.

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