When a man decided to leave his partner and take their child (aged four) to his native Pakistan, he may not have known that he was committing a criminal offence, but he became well aware of the fact on his return to the UK.
When he returned without the child, he was arrested and the mother applied for the child to be made a ward of court. The order was granted. The court ordered the man to disclose the child’s whereabouts and arrange for her to be brought back to the UK immediately.
Instead, the father arranged for the child to be taken to Iran. He was re-arrested and brought to court on a charge of contempt. The court considered that his egregious conduct warranted the maximum sentence for contempt and he was jailed for two years.
The court again ordered him to disclose the child’s whereabouts. He failed to do so. He was brought before the court again, facing a further committal order if he failed to divulge the information requested. When he refused to do so, he was imprisoned again.
He appealed against the committal order. The Court of Appeal did not accept his arguments that he did not know where the child was and also that he was being punished twice for the same offence.
The Court ruled that each successive breach of the order of the court was a new offence.
The courts take a hard-line approach in cases such as this, in which children are spirited abroad against a parent’s wishes and before the appropriate decisions can be made about which partner they should live with. Repeated breaches of non-molestation orders are also treated with great seriousness.