(Family Division, Holman J, 19 December 2013)
When the English mother and Egyptian father separated they voluntarily agreed on the care of their, now 6-year-old child. During a holiday to Egypt the father arranged for the child to be removed from their care and placed with members of the paternal family. The parents returned to this jurisdiction and the mother issued proceedings which culminated in the child being made a ward of court.
A series of orders had been made requiring the father to disclose the whereabouts of the child and to return the child to England but in the 2 years that proceedings had been ongoing he had steadfastly refused to do so. He had been committed to prison and had served almost 2 years for breach of the orders.
The court was now asked to determine whether a further sentence should be imposed. Nothing had changed to alter the previous conclusion that the father was in fact able to comply with the orders and that his failure to do so was a contempt.
Although successive orders were legally permissible, the reality of the situation was that the father had stuck to his initial stance of refusing to comply and any further sentence would have no coercive affect. He had already served a sentence equating to 4 years' imprisonment which was beyond the scope of the Court of Appeal's determination in Re W and he could not be further punished.