Associate Nicola Harris (nee) Wordley was instructed by Mr A in connection with abduction of his child by the mother. The child had been abducted from Pakistan and was located in Liverpool.
Nicola wasted no time in issuing an urgent application to the High Court in London and instructed Mr Henry Setright of 4 Paper Buildings Chambers, the leading Counsel in this field.
Matters progressed very quickly and, the whereabouts of the child having been uncovered. The matter was resolved by way of High Court mediation, with the assistance of retired High Court Judge Sir Peter Singer of 1 Hare Court.
This speedy response was greatly appreciated by the client and further enhanced MSB’s reputation in this highly challenging field. The matter concluded within 8 weeks, with the child returning to Pakistan. This was the clients primary goal along with seeing his son for the first time since the abduction. Both of the clients aims were achieved speedily and successfully
Legal 500 Case Summary
Case Summary relied upon for the following reasons:-
1. Demonstrating firm’s ability to deal with complex private children law matters including significant parental dispute, alleged parental alienation, appointment of a Guardian, prohibited steps, jurisdiction consideration and cultural issues.
2. Client has been a longstanding and repeat client of the firm thus demonstrating the firm’s retention of clients.
3. Cross network of other services supporting client including interpretation services, asylum assistance and creation of links with local mosque.
4. Cross complexity of judicial review proceedings following decision of the allocated Local Authority to withdraw funding for therapy of the children.
Parties and representation
The applicant father is a Libyan national now resident and employed in the North West of England. He is represented by Silverdale Law.
The Respondent mother is a Libyan national and has indefinite leave to remain in the UK. She is represented by MSB Solicitors.
The concerned children are represented via their CAFCASS guardian and their solicitor from FPH Law.
The relevant local authority is Liverpool City council whom although not party to the proceedings has had significant involvement in this matter.
Summary of Facts and Chronology
The matter concerns private law proceedings issued by the father of two children. The family is originally from Libya and the parents came to the United Kingdom on or around 2003. By 2006 the parents’ marriage was faltering. They separated and the mother returned to Libya with both children whilst the father remained in the United Kingdom.
The children subsequently returned to the UK with the mother in 2010 and in 2011 the father made an application through the Court for contact (as it then was). At the stage of that application, the father was exercising no contact of any kind with the children. During those proceedings, contact progressed to on a supervised basis in the community but contact again came to a halt in March 2012 after the children were introduced to their father’s new wife and the father subsequently took a holiday to Libya and was taken ill. By the time he returned in April 2012, attitudes had changed with the children no longer wishing to see their father and contact was ceased. The father subsequently withdrew his application and the children’s very strong wishes against seeing their father recorded. The children having felt somewhat let down by him.
Within those proceedings a prohibited steps order was also made preventing either party removing the children from the Jurisdiction of England and wales to Libya.
In 2014 a Social Worker from the Local Authority ascertained as part of her assessment with the mother and the children’s circumstances, that the children may miss him and on that basis the father made his current application to Court for a Child Arrangements Order in December 2014.
Various directions have been made within those proceedings for the appointment of a rule 16.4 Guardian for the children, a psychological assessment of the children and the parents collectively and a Section 37 and addendum Section 37 report from the Local Authority.
The views of the Court, on the basis of the evidence currently presented before the Court, and in particular the Guardian and psychologist is that the children are currently refusing contact with the father due to significant emotional harm in the care of their mother and that they have the mother’s negative feelings towards the father. The father alleges paretnal alienation.
The mother disputes this position and maintains that despite the supporting the children they do not wish to see the father as they have been let down by him twice before and have formed their own views of him.
All professionals agree that the children will continue to suffer harm and risk long term damaging consequences if they do not access appropriate therapy regarding their emotional needs. Therapeutic intervention having been advised by the assessing psychologist. The Local Authority accepted there is a need for therapeutic intervention and an appropriate service was identified.
Local Authority agreed to fund initial sessions of therapy for the children and thereafter continued therapy upon confirmation the children have engaged. Subsequent to this, the Local Authority withdrew their agreement to fund any further therapy, despite the children having engaged and a positive report being provided. In light of the withdrawal of funding, the children’s access to therapy has thus ceased.
The children remain without therapy and continue to suffer significant harm. Judicial review proceedings have been instigated on behalf of the children and are pending determination within the appropriate Court. In the interim period, the father has again applied to withdraw his application for contact with the children. The Court has stayed proceedings pending the outcome of the judicial review proceedings and to consider further the father’s application to withdraw.
Presently, proceedings are stayed with no Order for contact between the children and the father. The Court has directed that the children undergo the therapy recommended by the psychologist but is unable to direct for the Local Authority to fund the same. Proceedings are therefore stayed pending the outcome of judicial review proceedings when the Court will consider the father’s application to withdraw further and indeed determine the issue of therapy for the children.
This case has been conducted by Solicitor, Sarah Achilles within the family department who has been assisted initially by Stacey Halbert, Legal Executive and Alison Thomas, Legal Assistant. The client has been represented throughout proceedings by Counsel from Oriel Chambers and on a whole matters have been heard by Her Honour Judge Bancroft and in her absence on two occasions, Her Honour Judge O’Leary and His Honour Judge Dodds.
The Local Authority has been involved, although not as a party, and have played a significant role in these proceedings both having been involved with the family on a child in need basis and having completed the Section 37 report.
The mother’s first language is also Arabic and she has required the assistance of an interpreter throughout proceedings. Interpreters have been provided by UK Language Solutions and also the mother has been assisted by an interpreter from her local Mosque with whom the firm has now created links.
The mother and her partner have also been assisted by immigration solicitors and local services in accessing support with relevant benefits.
Matter concerns an application made by the father of two children for a Child Arrangements Order. There have been previous proceedings, from which the father withdrew after the children expressed a wish to have no contact him.
The family originate from foreign jurisdiction and the mother’s first language is not English. Throughout current proceedings the children have expressed firm wishes not to have any contact or relationship with their father asserting that he has let them down a number of times before. The father maintains however that their wishes are a result of the mother imposing her negative views upon the children causing them significant emotional harm. He suggests parental alienation. The mother disputes this and claims the children’s strong views are of a result of their past experiences and him withdrawing from their lives.
The children have been separately represented during proceedings by a Guardian and there has been the involvement of the Local Authority who has reported under Section 37 of the Children Act 1989.
A psychological assessment has also been completed in respect of the children.
The Local Authority does not accept that there is significant emotional harm caused to the children by the mother but concedes upon recommendation of the expert that the children do require some form of therapy to address current and past experiences.
Therapy was recommended and it was agreed this would be funded by the relevant Local Authority who subsequently withdrew such agreement. That decision is now subject to judicial review proceedings and in light of the lack of progress made, the father has now applied to withdraw his application for contact with the children.
There also remains in place a Prohibited Steps Order preventing either parent removing the children from the jurisdiction of England and Wales to their country of origin.