The grandparents and aunt of a five year old have been convicted of contempt of court after failing to reveal her whereabouts.
The parents of Alice Davies launched court proceedings after their relationships broke down. Her father, Julian Brown, had been unable to see his daughter and a contact order was eventually made, specifying access.
But in March the following year, Alice’s mother, Jacqueline left the country with the girl, saying she had lost her job “because of the constant need to take time off to prepare for and attend court” and wanted to seek new opportunities elsewhere. She did not tell the court where she was going but enquiries suggested she had flown to Russia.
The father returned to court, trying to enforce the contact order and the case was eventually transferred to the High Court.
Last month, a judge ordered the mother’s parents, Brian and Patricia Davies, to appear in court and disclose any knowledge they had of Jacqueline and Alice’s whereabouts. They did so, insisting that they did not know where their daughter or granddaughter were staying and could not contact them.
Police officers then went to the home of Jacqueline Davies’ sister, Melanie Williams, explained the legal proceedings and told her that he was also obliged to reveal any knowledge she might have of her sister and niece’s whereabouts. Mrs Williams told the officers that she had not been in contact with her sister for some time and said where she and her daughter were living.
However, while examining Mrs William’s phone, one of the officers found a contact labelled ‘Jacq’. They pressed her on whether this was her sister but she did not reply. Her parents, who were still travelling back from court, came to her house and they were all subsequently arrested.
Back in court, Mr Justice Keehan concluded that all three had misled the court and were therefore guilty of contempt. They were remanded in custody, with sentencing adjourned for a week. The judge also ruled that Alice could be identified in media reports.
But by the time Mr and Mrs Davies and their daughter came back to court the following Wednesday, Jacqueline had been located. News of the court case had reached her employers and she made contact with the High Court back in England, saying she would return to the UK with Alice within days.
Mrs and Mrs Davies and Melanie Williams told the court they had acted out of “misguided loyalty” and were now “contrite”. The judge imposed sentences of 12 days each for contempt of court.
Time spent on remand was deducted from the sentence and all three were released.