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Summary Return

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  • The father applied for the child's summary return to Australia. The mother, who was deaf and had a cochlear implant due for replacement, relied on a defence under Article 13(b) of the 1980 Hague Convention. Submissions on her behalf focused on the father's criminal convictions, for which he had been placed on the sex offenders register. Hayden J noted that it was an established precept of child safeguarding that where, as here, a convicted offender failed to acknowledge guilt and/or sought to minimise his behaviour, such actions were to be generally regarded as indicative of continuing risk. The mother made allegations of coercive and controlling behaviour against him, but appeared to have a very poor grasp of the risk that he could present to her children. Hayden J was comfortably satisfied that the evidence established a grave risk of serious harm to a child. In Australia, her isolation, vulnerability, challenges with communication and incomplete understanding of the risk the father represented would all leave her exposed to the manipulative and abusive behaviour of which he was accused. The defence provided by Article 13(b) was established and the application was dismissed. Judgment, 26/05/2021, free
  • The father applied for his six-year-old daughter's summary return from England to Russia under the 1980 Hague Convention, alleging that the mother had wrongly removed or retained her. The mother defended the application, arguing that the father had consented to the daughter's removal from Moldova to England, and that the child had become habitually resident in England and Wales. The court had to determine the date of wrongful removal or wrongful retention, habitual residence, settlement, the Article 13(b) defence of grave risk of harm, and, if relevant, the exercising of the court's discretion whether or not to order return. Also whether, when parties had agreed to the retention of a child abroad for an identifiable period of time, and the left behind parent resiled from the agreement and demanded the return of the child before the expiry of that period, the refusal or failure of the travelling parent to comply with the demand rendered the child's retention wrongful at that time. Poole J found that parts of the father's evidence had been inconsistent, sinister, incoherent, difficult to accept and deliberately misleading. The removal of the daughter from Russia had indeed been in breach of the father's custody rights, but Poole J rejected without hesitation his evidence that there had been an agreement to return her there. There was no wrongful removal when the daughter was brought to England in 2018, and no wrongful retention until January 2019, by which point she was habitually resident in England. Had it arisen, Poole J would have exercised his discretion to refuse to return the child to Russia, and he would have found that the Article 13(b) defence of grave risk of harm or intolerability was established, one reason being that the mother was not a Russian citizen and would have little to no security or stability there upon return. He dismissed the father's application for summary return. Judgment, 14/05/2021, free
  • An application by the father for the summary return of his son to Italy, pursuant to the Hague Convention 1980 and, to the extent that it remained part of UK domestic law, Brussels IIa. The parents were Italian nationals who were born, married and lived in South Africa. Following a move to Italy, the couple separated and in October 2019 the mother brought the child to England, where he now lived with her at an undisclosed location. The father had reported the abduction to the Italian police. Mr David Lock QC, sitting as a deputy High Court judge, came to the conclusion that there was a strong possibility that the Mother had set out in a deliberate and calculated way to mislead the court, as to the father's consent to her bringing the child to England, and as to her ability to speak Italian. He declined to exercise the discretion to suspend the return order, thinking it better for the mother to engage with the Italian authorities investigating the abduction sooner rather than later. He made an order to require the return of the child forthwith to Italy. Judgment, 04/03/2021, free
  • The father applied, under the Child Abduction and Custody Act 1985, incorporating the 1980 Hague Convention, for the summary return to Australia of three children aged 4, 9 and 13. The mother opposed the application on the basis that the retention had not been in breach of the father's rights of custody, that the father had acquiesced to the relocation, that there was a grave risk of a return exposing the children to harm, and that two of the children objected to returning and were old enough for their views to be taken into account. By the time of the hearing it was common ground between the parties that the children had been habitually resident in Australia, that the father shared rights of custody with the mother and that he had been exercising these rights. Mr David Rees QC, sitting as a deputy judge of the High Court, did not accept the mother's evidence that the father had given express consent to a permanent relocation. He found that the mother had made out an Article 13 exception in relation to the two older children's objections, but not with regards to grave harm. He exercised his discretion to direct the return of the children to Australia, but noted in a postscript that his order had not been carried into effect, the Australian courts having permitted, on an interim basis, the children to remain in England with the mother. Judgment, 20/12/2020, free
  • An application for the summary return of the eight-year-old son to Australia, where he had always lived until being brought without warning to England by the mother. The application was made under the Child Abduction and Custody Act 1985, pursuant to Articles 3 and 12 of the 1980 Hague Convention. It was agreed that the son's habitual residence in Australia and the father's exercising of rights of custody at the material time had both been made out. The task for Mr Teertha Gupta QC, sitting as a deputy High Court judge, was thus to decide on a summary basis whether the mother had raised a valid defence under the 1980 Hague Convention and, if so, whether he should exercise his discretion not to return the child forthwith to Australia. He found that the Article 13(b) defence had not been established; there was no evidence to support the mother's assertion that the child had suffered severe symptoms of intolerable anxiety. Mr Teertha Gupta QC expressed concern that the mother's actions might be symptoms of a deeper wish to eradicate the father from the child's life. It was in the child's overall and long-term best interests to return to Australia forthwith. The father's application was granted. Judgment, 18/12/2020, free

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