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Child Abduction – The Facts

A multi-cultural, racially diverse society brings with it many benefits, adding to the cultural fabric of society and fostering a richness of community that engenders pride as well as progress. However one phenomenom, which this brings, is an increase in international parental child abduction – where a parent takes a child without the permission of those with parental responsibility and or “custody”. In 2012 the Foreign Office’s Child Abduction Section fielded an average of 120 calls per month to its specialist advice line. More than half of those were new cases.

The Child Abduction Section have highlighted the grim truth that the issue is not going away. In the last decade, the number of such cases has doubled. Parental abduction is a serious criminal offence, although applications for the return of abducted children are issued in the Family Division of the High Court. Parental child abduction is not limited to the United Kingdom. It is a worldwide problem. And it is neither faith specific nor culture specific. Children are abducted and illegally taken into the UK as well as out of the UK. One problem is that some countries operate on the principle that “possession is nine tenths of the law”.

Many parents who seek return of their children through foreign courts face practical hurdles such as language difficulties, systemic differences and financial impediments. The legal playing fields present a whole host of other difficulties. Cases can take years to resolve and if a country has not signed the 1980 Hague Convention or been accepted as a non-member state, the harsh reality is that an abducted child may never be returned. The emotional distress which this causes is significant, even where children are returned after a relatively short time.

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