(Family Division, Sir J Munby P, 21 August 2013)
The Welsh mother married the Spanish father while working in Spain. The had five children and following the parents' separation disputes arose over where the children would live, necessitating two applications under the Hague Convention. The mother failed to comply with a return order resulting in location and collection orders when the mother disappeared with the children. The names and photos of the family were released to the media resulting in their whereabouts being discovered.
Following the children being located the court ordered that the mother deliver up the children on a specified day at 4pm at the railway station which she failed to do. The Solicitor General now issued an application for committal based on the mother's contempt. The decision to intervene was understandable given the clear public interest in the proper enforcement of the Hague Convention. The mother's breaches had been flagrant and repeated.
The breach occurred at 4pm and was not a continuing breach beyond that deadline. The order did not spell out what the consequences would be if the mother did not deliver the children and there was not question of any further breach as alleged by the Solicitor General.
The mother's account was that the two older children ran away from her home while they were getting ready to leave for the railway station on the specified day. They were later located by police and the mother collected them resulting in them not meeting the 4pm deadline. On the evidence the mother was prevented from delivering the children due to the actions of the two older children and then being at the police station and settling matters. The Solicitor General had failed to prove that it was in the mother's power to leave the police station in time to make the 4pm deadline.
The application was dismissed.