Three teenage girls who were abducted by their father and taken to Australia can have their passports renewed, the High Court has ruled.
The girls’ parents married in Kenya before moving to England. Their relationship was described in Mr Justice Baker’s judgment as “very on and off”. The mother claimed the father was “controlling and on one occasion physically abusive”, and following their 2002 separation and Islamic divorce the three girls lived with her.
However in 2005 the father claimed his former wife had abused the children and they were placed with him while the matter was investigated. Once this was completed, the mother accepted a police caution. Following the incident, she applied for a residence order to finally settle the question of who the girls would live with.
But before the proceedings could finish, the father took the girls with him to Africa before eventually settling in Australia. When the mother found out about this, she launched an application for their return to England under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. This was ultimately unsuccessful, as the girls told authorities they were happy and settled in Australia.
Last year, the Passport Office contacted the High Court about the father’s application to renew the girls’ passports. He claimed that his daughters planned to visit the UK and would need valid documentation to do so but the mother believed he actually wanted to move them to yet another country.
Mr Justice Baker noted that all three girls have Australian passports “on which, it seems, they are able to travel freely” so preventing a renewal of their British ones would not stop them travelling to another country. If this was truly the mother’s concern “she must apply to the Australian court” he said. He therefore ruled that the British passports could be renewed but not until April. This would give her time to make such an application should she choose to do so. After this time had expired, all restrictions on the renewals would be lifted.
The Judge believed this decision was “consistent with the duty of this court to take measures necessary for the protection of children”.
Read SU & SA (Children) here.