In a recently published judgment, a hearing to decide the fate of a one year-old child was suspended while the mother remained incarcerated in Singapore.
In Bold v Khew, the mother was Mongolian and the father was from Singapore. Their child was born in July 2012 while both parents were living in England.
The following year, the father took his son on a trip back to Singapore but left him there in the care of his parents. In response, the mother launched proceedings in England to have the boy returned.
The English courts established that the child had been habitually (legally) resident in the country prior to the trip and claimed jurisdiction over the case. The father’s passport was taken away to prevent him leaving the country.
Before the matter could be settled, the mother travelled to Singapore and removed her son from his grandparents’ home. They were found shortly afterwards and the mother was arrested, prosecuted and sentenced to prison. However, Mr Justice Holman said that he was “not entirely clear … of the exact offences of which she was convicted”.
Due to her inability to attend the hearing in England, the judge elected to adjourn it because “it would be most unjust to the mother” to conclude the case while she is in prison.
Meanwhile, the lawyer representing the father argued that his passport should be returned so he could see his parents. He claimed that the child’s grandparents had “suffered physical and maybe psychological harm” when the boy was taken from them. Taking away someone’s passport was “strongly restrictive of a person’s right and liberty of free movement”, the lawyer said.
While Mr Justice Holman claimed he had “considerable understanding” of the father’s position, he decided against returning the passport. He ruled that the father would have to wait until the next hearing. If the mother is still not able to attend the next hearing, it is possible that “these proceedings will be entirely discontinued”, the judge added. He concluded that if that happens, the father’s passport should be returned to him immediately.
To read the full judgment, click here.