In SC v BH, The High Court has granted a mother’s application “for a passport order whereby, in the event that the respondent father enters this jurisdiction from the United States, his passport, together with any passport in ACH’s name, will be seized.”
The English mother briefly lived in Texas with the American father after the birth of their daughter, referred to as ‘ACH’ in the judgment, before she relocated with the child to the United Kingdom in 2009.
The father applied to have ACH returned to the United States under the terms of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, an international treaty which allows the return of abducted children who have been taken abroad by a parent to be returned to their home countries.
In his application, the father claimed the mother was part of a conspiracy to travel to the US and become pregnant by an American father with the sole intention of abducting the child.
Sitting in the High Court in London, Mrs Justice King noted the original judge’s assessment of the alleged conspiracy:
“Its existence is so improbable that I feel I need to make no other observation other than that I do not accept that there was one.”
Given that assessment, the father’s application and subsequent appeal were both denied by the English courts.
Having failed in England, the father took his case to the American courts in Texas which, in the mother’s absence, ruled the father had sole residence rights over ACH and was able to apply for a passport in his daughter’s name without informing the mother.
Mrs Justice King concluded that it would be “inimical to ACH’s welfare for her to be removed from her mother’s care by her father who is a total a stranger and for her to be taken from all she knows to a foreign country”, and added it was up to the father to accept that ACH’s home was in the United Kingdom.
She stated there was a “real risk” the father could use a passport in ACH’s name and the backing of the Texan courts to abduct her, so the passport order was granted.