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Criminalising Parental Child Abduction by Retention

UK charity reunite International Child Abduction Centre has welcomed a recommendation by the Law Commission that parental child abduction by retention should be criminalised.

According to reunite, around 40% of all abduction cases are in fact wrongful retentions. This is where a parent takes a child overseas with the other parent’s consent (or in accordance with a court order) but subsequently refuses to allow the child to return home at the end of the agreed or authorised period.

Whilst abduction by removal is a criminal offence, abduction by retention is not, says reunite, and so a large number of left-behind parents have no recourse to the criminal process or the assistance of the police, and statutory authorities are not necessarily empowered to act as they can in abduction cases.

Reunite believes the impact on children and left-behind parents in a retention case is no less than where there is a removal, and is no less deserving of criminal process. However, as the law stands at present, children who are retained outside of the UK are not offered the level of protection afforded to children in other abusive situations.

“In the interests of children left-behind parents and of justice, there could and should be a change to legislation so that all left-behind parents have access to the assistance of the police, the criminal process and statutory authorities to ensure the swift resolution of cases of wrongful retention,” said Chief Executive Officer of reunite, Alison Shalaby.

“We will continue working together to ensure the Law Commission’s recommendations are advanced by Government and legislation is changed to better support abducted children and left-behind parents,” she added.

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