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Grandfather sentenced for contempt after mother takes baby to Barcelona

The grandfather of a four month-old baby has been sentenced to 28 days in prison for disobeying a court order.

The London Borough of Harrow intervened because both parents have a long-standing history of drug abuse. The authority agreed that the girl should live with her grandparents.

At the High Court, Mr Justice Keehan noted that the placement had been agreed “on the basis that that may afford some degree of protection to the child, and she would not be exposed to drug taking by either one of her parents or that she would not be at risk of harm in their care if and when they were under the influence of drugs.” Both the mother’s parents and the father’s mother lived at the same address.

However, last month the parents took the baby away and the grandparents were ordered to tell the courts anything they knew about the child’s whereabouts. The judge said:

“Part of that obligation was that the grandparents should take all steps within their control to ensure that [the girl] is returned immediately to the jurisdiction of England and Wales.”

The grandfather had claimed that he awoke in the middle of the night to find his daughter taking the girl away but had  seen no luggage or suitcases. His daughter had told him she was taking the girl to see social workers, he said.

Mr Justice Keehan declared:

What has now come to light, and what he did not tell me, was that on Friday 24 January, he arranged, by Western Union money transfer, to send the sum of £500 to his daughter in Barcelona in Spain. I was further told today that yesterday, the day after the hearing last before me, the maternal grandmother sent a further sum of £500 to their daughter in Barcelona.”

It had also emerged that he had been in touch with the mother by telephone. The judge noted:

“The grandfather said he had a telephone conversation with his daughter yesterday, as he has on a number of occasions, on his mobile phone. Yet when pressed by…counsel for the Local Authority, repeatedly he said he could not remember what he spoke to his daughter about just yesterday. He was evasive and defensive in his answers and I do not believe him. He claimed that the maternal grandmother was in an adjoining room during the course of this conversation. He did not tell her their daughter was on the telephone. He did not think he needed to, he said. Again, I do not believe him…”

The judge continued:

“The grandfather told me that the money was sent to pay for the rent of the accommodation that the parents presumably have in Barcelona and to provide for the baby. I take the view that in sending that money, especially yesterday, the grandparents are flouting the order…, because they are not taking all steps they can to secure the return, they are taking steps positively to support their daughter and son-in-law and granddaughter live in Barcelona.”

The grandfather had not been truthful with the court, the judge concluded, and was therefore “ a totally unreliable witness”.

He was trying to “protect his daughter and to prevent their whereabouts being discovered….I am satisfied so that I am sure that he knows the location of the mother, the father and the child. I am satisfied so that I am sure that he is withholding highly material evidence from this court. Accordingly, I have not the slightest hesitation in finding him to be in contempt of court.”

The case against the maternal and paternal grandfathers was adjourned.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Anon says:

    LOL. 28 days big whoop. Best part is that they can not find him in contempt again on not giving info. Shows how some courts are impotent when it comes to dealing with troublemakers. The max sentence is 2yrs, use that as an inroads into making a plea deal for a lighter sentence.

  2. Andrew says:

    Or until the child is returned?

  3. Paul says:

    Probably a clash of cultures and two different legal systems.

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