The father of three boys has been imprisoned for contempt of court after repeatedly failing to obey a court order and return them to Ireland.
The boys had been living in Dundalk, Ireland, with their mother while the father lived in England. The youngest was aged 11, and he had twin older brothers aged 13. In November last year they came to England with their mother to attend a wedding and visited their father. However, when she attempted to take them back to Ireland the father would not agree to them going. They have been living with him ever since.
The mother began proceedings under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Their father claimed the children did not wish to return to Ireland but the courts were unpersuaded, and he was ordered to return the children to Ireland by March 1 this year.
They did not leave, and the father returned to court in April. A complex series of proceedings followed, during which the father repeatedly failed to return the boys to their mother.
Eventually the judge ordered the children to be collected by a tipstaff (court officer). But when the officer went to the family’s home it became clear that the boys did not wish to leave.
The court appointed a legal guardian for the boys, who recommended that they be returned to the their mother because they had been caught in an “emotional whirlpool”, even though they said they wished to stay with their father. Another attempt to collect the children from the father’s house was made, but the boys were missing. The tipstaff brought the father back to court.
High Court judge Mr Justice Bodey concluded:
“…[I]t is really inconceivable that he [the father] does not know where the children are. I am sure he does know where they are, or at least that he knows how they can be contacted and located….I find him to be in contempt in not giving the court the assistance which the court required of him.”
The father was sent to prison for six months, but also given the opportunity to purge [clear] his contempt hearing the following week by apologising and cooperating with the court orders. The judge said the mother would have to make a fresh application for the return of the children and the father could face a further prison sentence if he failed to cooperate with this.