Newcastle Children’s lawyer, Lucinda Connell reports the number of parental child abduction and custody cases has more than doubled over the last decade, with almost two children being abducted abroad each day, according to new figures released by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Reunite.
In 2003/2004 the FCO was involved in 272 new parental child abduction and international custody cases. In 2012/13 that figure rose to 580, the second highest figure ever recorded. This year alone, Reunite has dealt with 447 new cases involving 616 children. It reported a particular spike in cases after Christmas 2012 and again in September this year following the summer holidays.
To highlight the issues and encourage parents to think of the consequences of taking action that can cause lasting damage to the children and families involved, the Foreign Office has launched a film, ´Caught in the Middle´, which tells the story of Rebecca, a fictional case study of a child involved in a parental abduction case.
Mark Simmonds, Minister for Consular Affairs, said; “We are launching this awareness campaign in the lead up to Christmas to try to prevent parents from doing something that would cause significant distress to themselves, their family and most importantly to the child. We also encourage parents to look for warning signs that their partner may be considering this. Once children are taken overseas it can be extremely difficult to secure their return to the UK. Many parents are not aware that by abducting their child, they may be committing a crime.”
The FCO warns that there is no typical ‘abducting parent’ – although abductions are more likely to take place where families have links to more than one country and, contrary to popular opinion, it is more likely to be the mother who abducts than the father. Indeed, approximately 70% of abducting parents are mothers.
The increase in child abduction is a worrying trend and in all family cases where there is a risk of flight, that risk should be carefully assessed to ensure urgent preventative action is taken where necessary.