Child abduction is the illegal removal of a child from the child’s home, usually by a parent. According to the charity Reunite, the number of child abductions where the child is removed from their home country by a parent and taken to live abroad or kept on abroad after an agreed holiday for example is increasing year on year.
Under the Child Abduction Act 1984, it is a crime for a “connected” person, including a parent, to take or send a child under 16 out of the UK without “appropriate consent”, i.e. without permission from everyone who has “parental responsibility” for the child or permission from the court. If convicted, the abductor faces up to seven years imprisonment.
People who have parental responsibility are i) the child’s mother, ii) the child’s father if they are married to the mother, iii) the child’s father who is not married to the mother provided the child was born after 1st December 2003 AND the father is named on the child’s birth certificate, iv) anyone who has been given parental responsibility for the child by a court.
It is always wise to obtain the prior agreement of the other parent with parental responsibility before taking any child under 16 years of age abroad. If you do not have their agreement then you should make an application to the court.
If you are worried that your child is in danger of being abducted or has already been abducted abroad, you should consider taking the following measures without delay:
1. Seek specialist legal advice from a family law practitioner as soon as possible – their advice will depend on whether you need to take steps to prevent the child’s removal or steps to bring the child back to their home country and they will be able to tell you if you will be able to get public legal funding.
- Preventative measures might include: safeguarding the child’s passport; applying for a restraining court order, an interim “residence order”, a prohibited steps order preventing the other parent’s trips abroad with the child, or an order limiting contact with the other parent to supervised contact (in a recent case, a mother with a history of abducting her child agreed to be tagged).
- If your aim is to bring the child back to their home country, you will be advised of the best way of making this happen. Much will depend on whether the home country and destination country have signed up to one of the international conventions, for example the Hague Convention which supports the swift return of an abducted child to the home country for the child‘s future to be decided there. Hague Convention countries have agreements in place to cooperate with each other over the return of children to their home countries.
2. Contact the international charity Reunite’s advice line (tel 0116 255 6234/ www.reunite.org) which provides support and constructive advice to parents of any nationality whose children are in danger of or have been abducted as well as ‘abducting’ parents
3. Contact your local police station if the child is with the other parent and you suspect the child is about to be taken out of the country illegally. If you take recent photographs of the child and the abductor and details of where they might be heading, the police can issue a “ports alert” at airports and ferry terminals lasting up to 28 days.
4. Always take advice about your particular circumstances. This applies whether you are the parent who has taken the child or the parent who is left behind.
For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org