(Family Division, Hayden J, 6 December 2013)
The parents of six children had a volatile relationship characterised by domestic violence. The local authority found the parents unwilling to co-operate with their investigations and there were concerns for their engagement with health and educational services for the children.
The family fled to Ireland to escape professional involvement but during their stay there were reports of a domestic violence incident at the hotel they were staying at and the father was subsequently arrested on a European Arrest Warrant for outstanding DV incidents against his wife.
The mother returned to England where a child protection conference was convened and the children were registered under the category of neglect in circumstances where their whereabouts remained unknown. Since then three of the children, aged 15, 5 and 3 were flown to Pakistan. The matter was transferred to the High Court in order to locate and secure their return. Return orders had been made and penal notices attached but the children remained in Pakistan. Committal proceedings were initiated.
The judge had no hesitation in finding that the parents were in breach of the orders, and that, the father in particular knew the whereabouts of the children but refused to disclose it and that he was able to secure their return but refused to do so.
The father was in flagrant contempt of the court orders and had lied repeatedly. While it was clear from observing the mother that her autonomy had been systematically eroded by her husband's bullying dominance, she had continuously lied and failed to follow the advice of the local authority. She was, therefore, also beyond reasonable doubt in contempt of the orders.