(Family Division, Keehan J, 2 September 2013)
The father issued Hague Convention proceedings seeking return orders in respect of his three children. The mother defended the proceedings claiming the father consented to the removal of the children from the Netherlands in accordance with Art 13a of the Hague Convention and that subsequently he had acquiesced in their remaining in this jurisdiction. She further claimed that the children would be at a grave risk of harm and/or would be placed in an intolerable position if they were returned, due to her allegations of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of the father.
On the evidence it was apparent that no one had spoken to the father about the removal of the children and, therefore, he could not consent. He had waited 2 months after he became aware of the situation to try and affect a reconciliation which was reasonable and did not amount to acquiescence.
The judge found that the mother had lied about sexual abuse and that there was insufficient evidence to support the claims of physical abuse. However, the father provided undertakings to regulate his behaviour with the mother and evidence was provided as to the assistance that was available from the Dutch court and police. On that basis there was no grave risk of harm.
In determining whether it should exercise its discretion the court found that it was manifestly in the best interests of the children to return to the Netherlands where they had lived all their lives prior to the removal.