Last month the High Court ruled it would not be proportionate, justifiable, or lawful to commit a father to further term of imprisonment even though he had failed to comply with an Order in the mother’s favour to return their daughter from Egypt to England, or to reveal her whereabouts.

The background is that before the parties were divorced in 2013 the mother and father had travelled with their daughter to Egypt in December 2011 for a short holiday over Christmas. The mother states whilst they were staying at a hotel, the father arranged independently for the daughter to live with his mother (the childs grandparent). The mother returned to England, as did the father a few days later.

The mother issued proceedings immediately and the daughter was made a Ward of Court. Subsequently there was a series of Orders made by a different number of Judges requiring the father to reveal the whereabouts of his daughter and procure her return from Egypt to England.

For two years, the father steadfastly refused either to cause her return to England or even reveal her whereabouts. Further Orders had been ignored, and a series of Orders permitting him to prison for contempt of Court for his failure to obey.

Recently the mother made an application for a further Order for committal but since the father had been detained continuously in prison from January 2012 to mid December 2013, his release date being 24th December 2013, this meant he had been in prison continuously for two years. This was the equivalent of a custodial sentence of almost four year’s imprisonment, after allowance for release serving half of any such sentence.

The Judge, based on the Case Law, doubted whether a Common Law Offence such as kidnapping could possibly extend extra-territorially to a difference sovereign state such as Egypt.

The conclusion was that on the evidence, the father had not committed any criminal offence under the Law of England and Wales or the United Kingdom. The conclusion was that in reality the father had asserted throughout the last two years that he could not comply with the successive Orders made, although the Court had felt sure that he was choosing not to comply and that from day one he had manifested an absolute determination to reveal the whereabouts of his daughter, and not cause her return to England. Although a very brave contempt of Court, indeed a flagrant contempt, the father had made it plain he would not comply with the Orders. In the circumstances he could have been sentenced to the maximum term of two years imprisonment.

In all the circumstances, given his detention in prison already, any sentence which could have been past would effectively be spent upon termination of the present sentence. On a brighter note, the father had indicated he wished to promote at least some contact between the child and her mother. This being the case a further hearing is to be fixed to focus on their daughters welfare and wellbeing at which the Judge hoped it would be possible for the Court to make significant progress in this ‘tragic case’.

For cases involving International Children Law, Court Orders and Child Abduction, contact Ringrose Law family team of Solicitors. We have a team of dedicated individuals who specialise in all areas of family law and would be happy to talk with you about your situation. Contact one of our offices in Boston, Grantham, Lincoln, Newark, Sleaford and Spalding.

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