In a recent family dispute, a father was ordered to return his children to England and disclose the passwords and PIN numbers of his mobile phones, which were held by the local authority. He failed to comply, contending that he could not remember the passwords and PIN numbers nor the addresses of his relatives in the UK. Head of Family Teena Dhanota-Jones reviews the case.
The parents in this case are Somalian. They have four children, all of whom were born in the UK and habitually resident here.
In March 2022, the children of the family informed their school that they had been subjected to physical and emotional abuse and had seen domestic abuse take place between their parents.
A few days later, the children could not be found. It became apparent that their mother had flown to Istanbul with the children for medical treatment for one of the children. When asked their whereabouts by the police, the father misled them in the first instance, asserting they were in New York.
The mother claimed that in April 2022, she was coerced by her husband’s relatives to travel with the children to Somalia and, upon arrival, was kept with the children in “a gated community in Mogadishu”.
The mother was forcibly returned to England without the children a few weeks later, and the father asserted he would return to collect the children. He seemingly did not. She returned to Somalia in August 2022 to locate the children but could not find them.
Order by court to return children to the UK
Manchester City Council applied for a wardship order, and the children were made wards of court on 14 November 2022. This resulted in an order being made against the father to return the children to the UK and disclose his phone details and information about his family’s addresses in the UK. The father refused to comply and, in March 2023, was sentenced to 12 months in prison for breaching the order. The matter returned to court in November, and when the father continued to refuse to comply, he was sentenced to a further 12 months in prison.
This is a disappointing outcome considering the English court’s overarching duty is to look after the welfare of these children. The children remain in a country in which they were not born or raised. Their situation must be daunting, as their father prefers to serve time in prison than return them to the UK. This is a truly ill-fated outcome for all parties concerned.
If you require an information meeting and/or further information about divorce or any other family matter, please contact Teena Dhanota-Jones at [email protected].
Disclaimer: The above is merely general guidance and should not be relied on as formal advice. We suggest you take professional legal advice before taking any action in relation to the issues discussed above.