Abduction, social engineering and parental orders: The last week in family law

A judge in family proceedings has ordered that two young children, who are believed to have been abducted to Cyprus, may be identified in the hope that the publicity will help to locate them. His Honour Judge Sir Gavyn Arthur said that he had “grave concern” for the welfare of Charlie Clift, five, and Kaiton Warnes, who is two years old. It is believed that the children, who have been missing since January 2014, are with their mother, Amelia Warnes. In a statement approved by the judge, lawyers said the boys were the subject of ongoing family court proceedings brought by East Sussex County Council social services. Both boys were removed from the UK while on child protection plans and both were wards of court.

A family court judge has ruled that a five-year-old boy must be taken from the care of his disabled mother, but dismissed a suggestion of “social engineering”. Judge Antony Hughes found that the woman’s disability made it impossible for her to meet her disabled son’s needs by herself, and that the level of local authority support she would need would be too extensive. He said: “One of the major issues in this case has been to the extent to which it would be possible for the local authority in providing support to the mother to care for [the boy] could effectively make up for her deficits and for [the boy] in that way to be provided with good enough parenting. It has been suggested that to remove [the boy] from his mother’s care and provide an optimum level of parenting by adopters or long-term foster carers is in effect a feature of social engineering … I reject that proposition … The level of support that would be required in relation to such an arrangement would be so extensive as to be detrimental to [the boy’s] welfare.”

Two grandparents from the West Midlands have been jailed in connection with the abduction of their two grandchildren by their mother, who had taken them to Costa Rica in breach of a court order. The mother had previously had full time care of the children, but the court order allowed her just one hour of supervised contact every month at a contact centre. The grandparents helped her to remove the children from this country, and then tried to cover up their part in the plot by lying to police and a High Court judge. The grandparents admitted child abduction and attempting to pervert the course of justice. The grandmother was sentenced to 14 months imprisonment and her partner to a year’s imprisonment. The children have since been returned to the UK although the mother is believed still to be in Costa Rica.

The first woman to be prosecuted under new “revenge porn” laws has received a suspended jail sentence. Paige Mitchell from Stevenage posted sexually explicit pictures of her girlfriend on Facebook after a row. Stevenage Magistrates’ Court chairman Bette Hindmarsh said: “Posting the photos on the internet was a highly vindictive invasion of privacy.” Mitchell, who pleaded guilty, was sentenced to six weeks in jail suspended for 18 months. She was also given a two-week suspended sentence for common assault and ordered to pay £345 in costs.

And finally, the President of the Family Division Sir James Munby has held that a parental order cannot be made upon the application of a single parent. In the case Re Z (A Child : Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act : parental order) a child was conceived in the USA with the father’s sperm and a third party donor’s egg implanted in an American surrogate mother. The father then returned to this country, bringing the child with him, and applied for a parental order, under which the child would be treated in law as his child. However, the President held that a parental order can only be made on the application of “two people” and therefore the application failed.