Orders made by family judges in order to protect children must be obeyed and it is not for parents to take the law into their own hands. The point was powerfully
After the father’s relationship with the children’s mother ran into difficulties, a family judge ordered that the little girl and boy should live with their mother and that their father should only have supervised contact with them. Both parents were prohibited from removing the children from England and Wales.
The father, however, became concerned that the mother was intent on subjecting the girl to female genital mutilation (FGM) and the boy to circumcision. He hatched a plot with his mother to abduct the children and take them abroad. By distracting a social worker during a contact visit, they succeeded in spiriting the children away to an airport, where they were arrested before they could leave the country. After they both admitted attempted child abduction, the father was jailed for a year and the grandmother, who was aged in her 70s, for six months.
In ruling on their challenge to those sentences, the Court of Appeal noted that the father’s anxieties had some substance. A woman who was apparently equipped with implements used to perform FGM and circumcision had been arrested whilst attempting to enter the UK. However, the Court noted that that arrest itself indicated that the police and social workers were well aware of the risk to the children and were taking active steps to protect them.
In dismissing the appeals, the Court noted that the abduction attempt was carefully planned and had every prospect of success. Although the father and grandmother genuinely believed that the girl was at imminent risk of suffering a barbaric act of mutilation, their actions were knowingly and flagrantly in breach of the order banning the children’s removal from Britain. Such defiance could have a catastrophic impact on children and suitable punishment was required to deter others.