‘Uncle' jailed for refusing to return abducted children to their mother
A man has been jailed for seven months for repeatedly ignoring court orders to help return three abducted children to their mother.
The man was the uncle, or possibly the elder half-brother, of three children who had been unlawfully retained by their father in Nigeria in 2013.
The mother began legal proceedings and the uncle was ordered by the court to provide information and assist in securing the children's return.
In 2015, he was sentenced to three months' imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, for contempt of court after failing to comply with the orders.
In February 2018, the mother alleged that he had helped to create false statements including fake letters from the children with the intention of misleading the court as to their wishes and feelings.
The judge, when sentencing him for contempt of court, took into account in mitigation that he had made some admissions and had attempted to contact the father's family in Nigeria to try to secure the children's return.
The judge added that any reference in mitigation to the effect of a prison sentence on the uncle’s family life with his wife and children had little place alongside the effects on the mother who had been deprived of any relationship with the children.
The uncle appealed, arguing that the judge had been wrong to exclude the importance of his wife and children, and that he had failed to give sufficient weight to his attempts to assist the court and the mother in finding the children.
The Court of Appeal upheld the judge’s decision. It said the judge had been fully entitled to consider that the contempt was so serious that it required an immediate custodial sentence. Child abduction was so deeply harmful that those who assisted it should normally expect nothing less.
Please contact Paul Owen or Shelley Rolfe if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of family law.