October 23 , 2014
Law firms have reported a rise in the number of abduction cases involving Boston’s migrant children.
Both Sills and Betteridge and Ringrose Law say they have noticed an increase in the number of children being taken to another country by one parent without the other’s consent following family breakdowns.
They have also seen a number of parents deliberately take their child abroad, often under the premise of a holiday, then fail to return.
Yvonne Clarke, a solicitor and partner at Sills and Betteridge and based in Boston, said cases have increased along with Boston’s population over the last three to four years.
“I don’t think before then we had any,” she said.
“Abduction is a very emotive word, but if you are taking a child without the other parent’s consent, particularly if they have parental responsibility and equal rights to you, you are abducting them.
“You are taking the child away from another parent. Anybody should think twice before doing that and should take legal advice before leaving the country.”
Both Yvonne and Lincoln-based Sills and Betteridge colleague Chrystal Theofanous have earned resolution accreditation for international child abduction cases.
It means they will deal with cases handed down by the International Child Abduction Unit at the Ministry of Justice.
“If a child has been abducted inside of the UK then any cases dealt with through the unit which are nearest to Lincoln will come through our firm and be dealt with by either Yvonne or myself,” Ms Theofanous said.
Most cases don’t become criminal investigations, as the parent can apply for their child to be returned using the Hague Convention and get help from solicitors.
However Nichola Skayman, children’s legal adviser for Ringrose Law, said the firm wanted to work with police to help prevent abductions happening in the first place.
“I am trying to organise a conference as this is happening more and more,” she said.
“If they are aware of the implications, they may be able to assist us and say don’t leave, go and get separate legal advice.
“It is really trying to get the word out. We probably get one a month where this is happening. I have never had one that is not from the migrant community. It ranges from babies to 10 and 11-year-olds.
“You are taking the child from everything they know.
“They might have been brought up in a Polish family in England where they have lived and went to an English speaking school and that is where their friends are, so it is very alien for a child.”
She added: “The main thing is that we don’t want the child out of the country. As soon as the child is gone it is harder.”
Joanne Orton, advice line co-ordinator for child abduction charity Reunite, said preventative measures could help.
“It is so cheap now to get flights into and out of the country,” she said.
“Where possible, if there is a real imminent threat of a child being taken, speak to the police and see if they can put an alert in place.
“If you know where it is, hide the child’s passport. If not, it is down to a lawyer to get in court orders in place.”
Legal help is automatic for child abduction cases in countries which are part of the Hague Convention, using civil action to help the parent who has applied for their child to be brought back.
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