Child Abduction: Prevention
Child abduction can be either a criminal or a civil offence depending on the specific circumstances of each case.
Child Abduction in Criminal Law
Under Section 1(1) of the Child Abduction Act 1984:
It is an offence for a parent to remove their child under the age of 16 years out of the country without the required permission. The legislation states that consent must be sought from every individual who holds parental responsibility for the child. Alternatively, permission must be granted by the court which will allow the child’s removal from the UK.
Secondly, the Police have the power to arrest anyone who they believe is attempting to remove a child from the country without the necessary permissions
There are a series of safeguards in place to ensure that a child cannot be taken out of the country without the consent of everyone who holds parental responsibility. The All Ports Warning System is used when there is a high risk that a child may be taken out of the country without consent.
When this is implemented, details of the child will be circulated to all ports throughout the country including sea and airports. Details of the child will be placed on a ‘stop list’ for a period of four weeks.
Under Civil Law, the court may decide to prevent the removal of a child from the country in a number of ways. They can grant a Section 8 Order using the Children’s Act 1989 which can include a prohibited steps order, a care or residence order or in the most serious of cases, an emergency protection order.
The civil courts may also apply what is known as a wardship of the court. This is a process which effectively makes the child a ward of the court and this prohibits the child from being removed from the country. Furthermore, when a residence order is granted or another civil law order, the court can instruct that the relevant individual responsible for the child surrenders their passport.
This is sometimes used as an additional step to make leaving the country a little more difficult.
If it is considered that abduction is a very real threat, additional steps may be taken to further safeguard the child and their family. A number of parties will be informed of this threat including childminders, teachers and carers who have contact with the child on a daily basis.
The court may also issue an order to ensure that if the child does have any contact with someone they believe could potentially abduct the child, they are supervised at all times. The court can also instruct that this individual surrenders their passport.
Sometimes a parent who holds parental responsibility may provide their consent for an individual to take their child out of the country such as a holiday or family visit, but they believe that the child will not be returned there are two preventative measures that can be implemented.
The first of these is what is referred to as a mirror order. This will need to be obtained through the courts in the country where the child is being taken. These orders will be created based around the same provisions as they would be if they were made under UK law.
If for example, an order was created in the UK that specified the amount of time that a child could be out of the country, this order would be issued to the visiting country and fully enforceable to ensure that the child is returned when they need to be.
It also puts in place a safeguard in the event that the order is breached. In this situation, the visiting country can deal accordingly with the breach of the order. Another safeguard that is sometimes used is for the person taking the child out of the country to put down a deposit which will be returned once the child is safely back in the country on the agreed date.
About the author:
This article was written by a member of the Expert Answers legal advice team and posted by Lloyd Barrett. Expert Answers provides online legal advice on all aspects of UK Law to users in the United Kingdom.