New figures released today by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) and Reunite (The leading UK charity specialising in the movement of children across international borders) confirmed that the number of parental child abduction and custody cases has more than doubled over the last decade, with almost two children being abducted abroad each day.
The FCO reported that in 2003/2004 it was involved in 272 new parental Child Abduction and international custody cases. In 2012/13 that figure rose to 580, the second highest figure ever recorded.
Mark Simmonds, Minister for Consular Affairs, said: "We are launching this awareness campaign in the lead up to Christmas to try to prevent parents from doing something that would cause significant distress to themselves, their family and most importantly to the child. We also encourage parents to look for warning signs that their partner may be considering this. Once Children are taken overseas it can be extremely difficult to secure their return to the UK. Many parents are not aware that by abducting their child, they may be committing a crime."
As a child law specialist and having dealt with a string of cases involving Child Abduction, it is no surprise that approaching the Christmas period has led to many urgent enquiries for advice following the suspected unlawful removal of a child to another country.
The most important advice I offer to those concerned is to act quickly. There are serious risks in delay and the numbers of unfortunate cases where children are untraceable or extremely difficult to locate are rising. Of course the international location of the abducted is key here, but I must agree with Mark Simmons in that the Christmas break period sees a particular spike in the number of children who are abducted to another country. Warning signs are usually a common trend. There is no typical 'abducting parent' and although abductions are more likely to take place where families have links to more than one country, contrary to popular opinion, it is more likely to be the mother who abducts than the father (approximately 70% of abducting parents are mothers).
In an attempt to highlight the concern, a new film has been launched by the FCO, which tells the fictional story of Rebecca, a child involved in a parental abduction case. It aims to highlight the issues and encourage parents to think of the consequences before doing something that could do lasting damage to the children and families involved.
Reunite confirmed that they dealt with 447 new cases involving 616 children. It reported a particular spike in cases after Christmas 2012 and again in September this year following the summer holidays. Urgent advice should be sought if you suspect potential child abduction. Prevention is better than cure when it comes to this area of law and a free consultation can be arranged by accessing this page.
By Family Law Solicitor Kaleel Anwar