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Concerns over handling of international child abductions

Recent research from the Law School at Cardiff University has uncovered threats to the effectiveness of the existing system to deal with international child abduction to England and Wales.

International child abduction cases are usually handled under the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention. This Convention applies typically where one parent has moved a child abroad without the consent of the other parent and without the permission of a court. In such a case, the “left behind” parent may apply through the Hague system for the prompt return of the child, and a “return order” will be issued unless the “taking parent” can establish that one of the exceptions found in the Convention should be applied.

Previous studies have found that applications under the Convention are taking longer to resolve, and the Cardiff research sought to find out why this is the case.

The study found that:

  • The number of applications made under the Convention relating to children taken to England or Wales rose to 249 in 2011. This compares to 200 applications made in 2008 and 142 in 2003.
  • Only 33% of applications to England and Wales were concluded in the six week target set for abduction cases.
  • The duration of substantive court proceedings in abduction cases has risen from one day to three days

Researchers are concerned that if action corrective action is not taken, the timescales will continue to slip and children will be separated from their family for longer.

Professor Nigel Lowe, one of the study authors, said: “The Hague Convention on Child Abduction is the best available international legal framework for dealing with these problems. Despite these findings the English system remains a model Convention Country. The concern of the research is that it should remain so."

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