PARENTS who abduct their children are more likely to win a reprieve if their case is decided in a foreign country, a loophole being blamed on weak international laws that have been “watered down” over time.
That’s the view of former Family Court judge Nahum Mushin, who says Australian judges should be the ultimate arbitrators during tug-of-love cases involving Australian kids.
“The parent who removes the child is advantaged in a foreign country,” Mr Mushin said.
When Parliament returns from winter break, the Senate is expected to pass a new law to crack down on international parental child abduction, which is not currently a crime. The proposed law will carry a prison term of up to three years for parents who abscond with their children for longer than agreed.
Former Family Court judge Nahum Mushin says Australian judges should decide on ‘tug-of-love’ cases involving Australian kids taken overseas. Picture: Luis Enrique Ascui
Professor Mushin cheered attempts to deter would-be abductors amid concern signatories to The Hague Convention weren’t abiding by the spirit of the law, which in most cases demands custody battles be heard in the child’s “habitual residence” where evidence is more readily available.
“The courts of Australia should decide matters concerning its residents,” he said.
The mother at the centre of 60 Minutes’ botched attempt to snatch back her children from their father in Lebanon has also championed the crackdown.
Sally Faulkner, who was imprisoned with Channel Nine presenter Tara Brown, hasn’t spoken to her children since she last saw them in Beirut last year: “Not one phone call, or photo; it’s very sad”.
Under the proposed law, police will be given broader powers to tap phones, monitor bank transactions and work with foreign police forces.
However, experts consider the tough new measure merely a deterrent because Australian police and courts will not gain any new powers to recover children from overseas.
Australian parents made 92 Hague Convention applications for the return of 137 abducted children in 2015-16, and 63 were returned successfully. Fifty five foreign parents sought the return of 79 children from Australia in the same period, of whom 44 were sent home.
Demi and Sotiri (Samuel) Beshara were taken to Greece with their mother and their dad Michael has not seen them for two years.
A DAD’S TEARS FOR LOST KIDS
IT HAS been two years since Moorebank man Michael Beshara, 43, saw his kids.
In the time since, he’s sought relief from hard liquor, contemplated suicide and suffered five strokes.
A fortnight after Mr Beshara divorced his ex-wife Christina Mamasioulas in 2015, he agreed she could take daughter Demi, 12, and son Samuel, 10, to Greece to visit a dying uncle.
Michael Beshara hasn’t seen his children Demi and Sotiri (Samuel) Beshara for two years.
But Ms Mamasioulas’ lawyer sent Mr Beshara a letter stating the children would need an extra 10 weeks in Greece.
Three weeks before the revised homecoming date Ms Mamasioulas married the couple’s old neighbour from Casula in a Greek ceremony. The children never boarded their flight home — instead Mr Beshara got a letter stating the children would stay in Greece.
There was nothing Australian police or courts could do — it was outside their jurisdiction — so Mr Beshara’s only option was to join 136 other Australian parents who last year waged a custody battle in a foreign courtroom.
Ms Mamasioulas claims the children disclosed harrowing allegations of psychological and sexual abuse by Mr Beshara when they got to Greece. He denies the claims.
Asked why she agreed to indefinitely extend a joint custody arrangement just six weeks before leaving Australia, Ms Mamasioulas said she didn’t know the extent of the alleged abuse. “The children only opened up once we got to Greece,” she said.
“If a mother wants to alienate her children from their father in a foreign land, there is practically no one that can stop her,” Mr Beshara said.
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