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Manchester City Council v D (Application for Permission Withdraw Proceedings after Abduction) [2021] EWHC 1191

The local authority was granted leave to withdraw care proceedings where the children had been unlawfully abducted to Pakistan and were not likely to be returned. The court however had made the children wards of court and ordered that they be returned to the jurisdiction. The wardship was continued and the judgment passed to the police and Interpol.

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Care proceedings were brought because of the serious history of domestic abuse. During assessments the father accepted that he had amongst other matters raped and assaulted the mother on a number of occasions. The children were living at home with the mother under interim care orders supported by exclusion orders under s38A Children Act 1989. The local authority proposed that the children remain with the mother and this plan was supported by the children's guardian who was recommending a care order with the children remaining at home. The parents removed the children to Pakistan via Ireland and Italy. The judge heard evidence from the parents via video-link and ordered the return to England and Wales. The parents refused. The judge considered the Hague Convention and the UK/Pakistan Protocol and concluded that there is no bilateral process which was likely to secure the children's return. [para 38]

In deciding to grant the application for leave to withdraw, MacDonald J reviewed and applied the case law since London Borough of Southwark v B [1993] 2 FLR 559 including GC v A Local Authority (A Child) (Withdrawal of care proceedings) [2020] 4 WLR 92 in which the court is expected to consider the welfare of the child and the overriding objective, and concluded that as a result of the abduction that "there is no advantage to any child in being maintained as the subject of proceedings that have become ineffective in result". [para 41]. However he then went onto make plain that this was not acquiescence to the acts of the parents in fact on the contrary "parents who abduct children as a means of avoiding local authority involvement with those children or during the course of subsequent care proceedings can expect the court to bring to bear the full weight of the law in seeking the return of those children to this jurisdiction, and to continue in that effort until all legal avenues have been exhausted." [Para 47].

Case summary by Nicholas O'Brien, Barrister, Coram Chambers

For full case, please see BAILII