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Four sisters in Australian Hague Convention case must return to Italy

Lapse in time did not justify discharge of order

The four Italian/Australian sisters, who have been the subject of a high profile Hague Convention case in Australia, have been ordered to return to Italy.

Brisbane Family Court Justice Colin Forrest ruled that the lapse in time since the original order, made by him in 2011, did not create sufficient exceptional circumstances for the order to be discharged.  The ruling was contingent on the father undertaking not to pursue any criminal proceedings against the mother should she return to Italy with her daughters.

Much of the focus of these proceedings has been on whether the sisters' views had been sufficiently taken into account and a constitutional challenge made by the mother and her legal representatives on the grounds that the girls should have been provided separate legal representation was dismissed in August.  The girls were interviewed again prior to the most recent hearing and expressed the view that they did not want to return to Italy. However, Justice Forrest found that the girls had been "significantly influenced" by the mother and her family and that their desire to remain in Australia did not override the international obligations imposed by the Hague Convention.

The sisters are to be returned to Italy as soon as practicable.

For a fuller report in The Australian, please click here.

Emma Nash, Associate, Spring Law