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Re A (a child) [2021] EWHC 3467

Final/ fact finding hearing in Mother’s application for child arrangements, specific issue and prohibited steps orders after Father abducted the child A to Switzerland.

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F removed A to Switzerland in June 2020 by way of what the Judge found was a "cynically and meticulously planned" abduction "calculated to maximise stress" to M.  M's application for A's return under the Hague Convention was dismissed by the Swiss court which found the Article 13b defence (grave risk of harm) established.  M's appeal was unsuccessful and she issued these proceedings.  F then applied to have these proceedings transferred to Switzerland pursuant to Article 7.  That application was dismissed, but caused further delay.  In that time there was little evidence that F had made any effort to promote contact or any relationship between M and A. 

M's allegations against F were that he was a manipulative and controlling individual who cynically and carefully planned an abduction without any insight into A's needs and for which there was no defence

In resisting M's applications, F relied on evidence from the father (TD) of 2 of M's older children S & Z who lived with TD, in particular the account of how M arranged for the boys (aged 6 & 8) to be circumcised during contact with her.  The court found M violated the personal and bodily integrity of the boys and did so in a planned way deliberately concealing her actions from TD and following a period of coercion where she frightened the boys with fears of the 'flames of hell' and the withdrawal of her own affection.

The court found both M and F in their different ways to be unreliable, dishonest and too preoccupied with their own matters to put A's needs first, but clearly found the evidence of TD compelling.  F's assertion that he was a victim (similar to TD) of M's bullying and that A's abduction was a last resort to protect A was rejected.  The court noted that his actions had deracinated A entirely from M and A's siblings and that F failed to recognise that would cause her lifelong harm.  Although not agreeing entirely with the analysis by the child's guardian, for example considering that she had not given sufficient weight to some of M's behaviour, the Judge felt that this did not displace her analysis of the balance of harm, which supported A's return to M.

When balancing the risk of harm to A by her remaining with F or returning to M's care, the court came to the clear conclusion that the greater harm lay with her remaining with F.  The involvement of social services with M in the past (in relation to S & Z) had been beneficial to her practical parenting and she remained receptive to working with them in relation to A in the future.

Case summary by Dr Martina van der Leij, Barrister, Field Court Chambers

For full case, please see BAILII