The abduction of a child is every parent’s worst nightmare. When most people think of the term ‘child abduction’, they imagine someone leading their child away from a park or a shopping mall when they have turned their back for a moment. However, this is not the case. The vast majority of child abductions occur when one parent, who is a foreign national, removes a child from the UK. If you have separated from the Mother or Father of your child and you are concerned that they may try to remove them from the country, there are a number of steps you can take to prevent this from happening.
So that your child can be quickly identified, take two recent photos of them that can be easily distributed. Write a detailed description of both your child and their possible abductor and take your child’s fingerprints.
If possible, try and obtain a recent photograph of your child’s likely abductor.
Make sure your solicitor has copies of all these documents.
Inform your local police station of your concerns. From the information you provide to them, they will decide whether the risk of an abduction is ‘real and imminent’. If they believe it is, then they will issue an ‘All Ports Warning’ and your child will be put on the Child Abduction List for 28 days.
Your solicitor will be able to arrange a Prohibited Steps Order in certain circumstances. This means that the other parent cannot take certain actions in relation to their child without the Court’s consent. For example, a Prohibited Steps Order could state that the other parent may not apply for a passport under the child’s name without obtaining the consent of the Court.
The Court can make an order for the electronic tagging of the other parent as long as that parent consents.
If, despite your precautionary measures, your child is removed from the UK, the action you can take to have the child returned to the UK depends on whether or not the country he or she has been taken to is a signatory to The Hague Convention.
The Hague Convention is a Treaty, signed by a number of nations, designed to facilitate the fast return of a child who has been abducted from their normal country of residence.
In all but exceptional circumstances such as the risk of physical or psychological harm, the child must be returned to their country of habitual residence if an application under The Hague Convention is made.
If the country the child has been taken to is not a signatory to The Hague Convention, then the process of having the child returned is much more difficult and you will need to obtain experienced legal advice.
The UK does have bilateral agreements in place with Egypt and Pakistan to facilitate the return of abducted children.
If you fear that there is a real and imminent risk that your child may be abducted, contact a solicitor and local police station immediately.