The Iranian mother of two children has been granted permission to legally changes their names to hide from their abusive father.
The couple had married in 2002 and lived in the southern city of Shiraz. The husband came from an influential tribe in the part of Iran. They moved to England the year after their marriage and applied for asylum for reasons not specified in the judgement. It was eventually granted in 2009. The couple had two children, both born in England – a brother and sister, now aged 13 and eight.
In the High Court, the Honourable Mr Justice Cobb explained:
“The mother describes the marriage as abusive from an early point, certainly from the moment the parties arrived in this country. She asserts that the father was constantly intimidating and bullying towards her, and in due course the children; she describes at length in her statements her own distress, and the upset and fear of the children, caused by his behaviour.”
Evidence suggested the marriage had indeed been “volatile”, he noted, with the Police called out to the family home on multiple occasions following reports of domestic violence. Police reports appeared to back up the wife’s claims. She and the children moved into domestic violence shelters several times, before returning to the father.
She told the court that she began to suffer from depression and that this had only seemed to encourage further abuse by the father. In 2013 she began divorce proceedings but withdrew them when the father promised to change his ways. But any improvements were short-lived and she relaunched the divorce proceedings the following year.
Around the same time, the family travelled to Iran. While there, the mother claimed, the father took the children away and tried to prevent her from returning to England. But she and the children managed to escape. The father followed them back and an “inevitable confrontation ensued”. The Police helped the mother to move into a shelter again. Once there she took out an injunction against him and also obtained a prohibited steps order, forbidding he from taking the children back to Iran.
Meanwhile, he applied to see the children, denying any plans to abduct the children back to Iran. He was given two nights’ contact per week.
“I had no plans to remain in Iran [in 2014], I have a home, car, family and better life in the UK and I had no plans of moving to a third world country. My children are settled in the UK and it would have been detrimental to my children’s education to take them back [to live in Iran] as they would have had to begin learning the language from scratch. I deny that I pose a threat to the children and I have never made threats to remove them from the jurisdiction.”
The Judge explained:
“The mother’s case is that abuse and harassment from the father persisted. She says that the father used the contact hand-overs to berate and maltreat her.”
In February last year, one of the children told his mother that he had overheard his father talking on the phone about a passport. She reported this to the Police but no action was taken. A few days later, the children’s school told they had not come in that day, or the previous day, during a stay with their father.
It turned out that he had fled the country with them, travelling all the way back to Shiraz, in breach of the prohibited steps order, using a convoluted route which included Dublin and Dubai.
The children remained there with the father for the next seven months. Mr Justice Cobb explained what happened next:
“The mother was enabled, with assistance, to locate the children in Iran, and in early November 2016, the mother travelled there herself, surreptitiously collected the children from school, and over the course of several days she returned with them back to this country, clandestinely, making at least part of this arduous journey on foot. In this endeavour, she was assisted by the abduction team of the Foreign and Commonwealth office, and by the British Embassy in Turkey.”
“Immediately following their return, the mother states that she received increasingly frightening telephone calls and messages from the father, in which he threatened to trace her, to kill her, to have acid thrown into her face, and to snatch the children (by himself or through agents) and take them back to Iran.”
He launched legal proceedings, both in Iran and the UK, alleging the mother had abducted the children, and a family court in Shiraz granted him custody. The mother was frightened he would now travel to the UK and try and take the children back, despite the fact that she was living at a secret address.
She applied to court for permission to change the children’s names and restrict the father’s parental responsibility.
Mr Justice Cobb ruled that the children should live with their mother and have no contact with their father. He would lose all parental rights until the children turn 18. The Judge renewed the earlier prohibited steps order forbidding the father from taking his son and daughter out of the UK, and he was also prohibted from coming within 100 metres of any location she suspected the family might be.
“I shall in due course grant permission to the mother to change the children’s given names and surname, and to do so without reference to the father, provided that the mother notifies me (though her solicitors by email to the Judge’s Clerk, marked ‘confidential’) in writing within 28 days of this order of what those names will be.”