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High Court: lawful to help ‘abandoned’ daughter

It is lawful for a local authority to help the unmarried daughter of a diplomatic envoy who was “abandoned” by her parents in the UK, the High Court has ruled.

The teenager had fallen out with her father so badly that he had threatened to kill his grandchild, the Court was told, and her mother was also alleged to have made threats.

The local authority told the court that “the maternal grandfather wished for the mother to have an abortion and that she should travel abroad for an arranged marriage. It is also alleged that the maternal grandfather had threatened to kill the baby.”

The girl, who is approaching her 17th birthday, had left the family home in November last year when the local authority offered her temporary accommodation with a foster family, following a temporary suspension of her diplomatic immunity. She and the baby were at “serious risk” of being physically and emotionally harmed, social workers believed.

Her father worked as an envoy (junior ambassador) at the high commission of a Commonwealth country in London until May this year, when the girl’s parents left the country and “essentially abandoned her to the care of the local authority”. The local authority had been concerned that they would try to force the girl to leave with them and sought court orders prohibiting this.

Despite the parents’ departure, the father’s diplomatic status posed problems for the local authority. They wished to provide the girl, who suffers from mental health problems, with a permanent home and protection, but under the Diplomatic Privileges Act 1964, “the person of a diplomatic agent” has legal immunity and the extends to family members living in their household.

The local authority applied for court orders clarifying the situation. Sitting at the High Court, Mrs Justice Pauffley ruled diplomatic no longer applied to the girl or to her child as neither had lived within the envoy’s household since last year. Therefore it was lawful under the Children Act 1989 for the lawful for the local authority to help the teen.

The Judge noted that the girl had spent time in a hospital after developing difficulties with her mental health. She visited her parents’ home during her stay but her relationship with them began to deteriorate “largely, so it would seem, as the result of their attitude towards her pregnancy and the birth of her child”.

She was provided with foster accommodation when her parents refused to allow their daughter to return home after she was discharged from hospital.

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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