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The Importance of the Child’s Emotional Needs in an Abduction Case

Date posted: 26 May 2022

The case of Re A (A Child) [2021] EWHC 3467 (Fam) was heard in High Court in December 2021 and concerned a child who had been removed from the UK and taken to Switzerland. The father of the child removed the child from the jurisdiction in June 2020 and the mother immediately reported the child’s abduction and began proceedings for the child’s return.


The father claimed to be taking the child for a walk, yet in fact had chartered a private flight to Switzerland with the help of the paternal grandfather who resided there. The father sent the mother an email informing her of this, which he specially timed to be sent when the plane landed in Switzerland.


The mother alleged she was a victim of controlling and coercive behaviour from the father and the circumstances of the abduction was clear evidence of this. The mother alleged that the father could not act in the best interests of the child as he had little insight into her needs. The Judge found that the abduction was ‘cynically and meticulously planned’ and was ‘calculated to maximise distress to the mother’.


The father alleged that he was a victim of ‘bullying’ from the mother and took the child to Switzerland as an opportunity to protect him and the child from the mother’s behaviour.


Dr Fanny Black, a forensic psychologist found that both parents struggled to focus on the needs of the child.


The mother’s ex-partner with whom she had two children with, gave evidence on her parenting and alleged that she was neglectful. One of the central disputes was the mother ‘developing enthusiasm’ for Judaism and how this had a negative impact on these two children. She had taken them to be circumcised which the Judge described as a ‘violation of the personal and bodily integrity’ of the children. The Judge found this behaviour to be comparable to the father’s malicious abduction of the child.


The Judge ultimately concluded that the child would face greater harm in remaining with the father than the mother. The Judge declared that despite the faults in the mother’s parenting, she had an ‘instinctive warmth and understanding’ and could meet the child’s emotional needs. The child was ordered to be returned to the UK without any further delay and remain with the mother. This was on the condition that the mother continued to work with Social Services to improve her parenting.


From this case, it is clear that in Family matters, the emotional development and nurture a child will receive has significant weight when deciding where a child should be placed. It is important to factor the parent’s love for the child as well as their physical ability to care for a child.


If you require legal assistance in a childcare case, contact Mavis on 020 8885 7986 for an appointment with a member of the family team.