(Family Division, Theis J, 11 October 2013)
The two girls, aged 14 and 11, were made subject to emergency protection and recovery orders when they went missing. The local authority was already involved with the family due to concerns regarding domestic violence, attendance at school and medical appointments. There was also an allegation that the 14-year-old girl had been violently assaulted by her 16-year-old brother and her father.
The mother claimed to have been told that the girls were in Manchester with relatives but she failed to deliver them to the court or provide contact information. The mother was remanded in custody and she accepted she had had opportunities to produce the children but failed to do so as she feared they would be taken into local authority care.
It was now clear that the mother's evidence had been inherently unreliable and inconsistent. In addition it was also clear that it had been within the mother's power to produce the girls to the local authority but failed to do so. She was in breach of the collection order and her ongoing duty to provide information as to the whereabouts of the children.
After considering the mitigating circumstances the judge commented that it was an extremely serious matter when the court was unable to trace the whereabouts of children, and it was particularly serious when the court was unable to do that because the person who could assist in that would not provide the help to locate the children. The very least sentence which could be imposed was one of 28 days' imprisonment. In view of the fact that there had been no reliable co-operation with the court that sentence could not be suspended.