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But Belgium says no thanks


This is decidedly weird.  The High Court were dealing with an application under the Hague Convention for an order to return the child to Belgium. The father alleged that the mother had abducted the child and that the child should be returned to Belgium, where the Belgian Courts could then make the decision about where the child should live.


The problem was, that before anyone started to get stuck into whether there had been an abduction, whether there were defences under the Hague Convention and Child Abduction Act that might mean that the child should not be returned and so forth, that Belgium would not let the mother and child into their country anyway.


Re NA (dismissal of application under Hague Convention) 2015


The entire family had come from Iran. They left Iran in 2008, made their way to Belgium and made a claim for asylum. That claim was refused and there was substantial litigation about the appeals process. They tried again afresh in 2011, and again their claim was refused.

The mother and child came to England in 2013, and she applied for asylum here (she and her son have been given leave to remain in the UK for five years – this happened whilst these proceedings were taking place). Father applied two years later for an order compelling the child’s return to Belgium.

Whether there had been an abduction of the child or not, can the Court order someone to return the child to Belgium when the Belgian authorities had ruled twice that the family had no legal right to be in Belgium ?  Nor could the Home Department of the UK remove the mother and child to Belgium – (prior to granting their leave to remain they could have removed them back to Iran, but not back to Belgium)



  1. There was indirect contact between the father and the child on occasions during 2014. In June 2015 the father issued an application for the return of his son to Belgium pursuant to the Hague Convention, thereby commencing the present proceedings. It is to be noted that that application was issued a little more than two years after the removal of the child from Belgium, and accordingly the application would in any event have raised a lively question as to whether it was “demonstrated that the child is now settled in its new environment” within the meaning of, and for the purpose of, Article 12 of the Convention. That issue and, indeed, any other “defences” under the Hague Convention has never been considered, nor determined, by the court; for in the meantime the question arose whether, even if ordered to return the child to Belgium, the mother could, in fact, lawfully do so, because it appeared that neither she nor the child would be permitted to enter Belgium. As I have indicated, that difficulty arose because the period within which the state of Belgium would have been required to take back the mother and child pursuant to the regulation Dublin II had long since elapsed. It appeared, therefore, that the mother herself could not lawfully voluntarily return with the child to Belgium. It appeared also that the Secretary of State for the Home Department could not now remove the mother and child to Belgium, although it might have been open to the Secretary of State to remove them to Iran, being the state of which they are both citizens.
  2. During the last few months there have been several brief hearings before the court, and most recently on two earlier occasions before myself, whilst efforts have been made fully to explore the immigration status of the mother and child here; the intentions of the Secretary of State with regard to removing them; and the question whether the mother and child could be forcibly removed to Belgium or, indeed, voluntarily return to that state. One possibility that was mooted was that, upon application to it, the state of Belgium might exercise a discretion to permit the mother and child to return to and enter Belgium on the basis of a “family reunion visa”. The difficulty with that particular suggestion was and is that there is no question of “family reunion”, because the mother makes crystal clear that she is not willing to return to live with, or in any way be “reunited” with, the father.
  3. Against that background I made an order dated 28th October 2015, which anyone with a proper interest in this matter could read for its full terms and effect. There were two recitals, which essentially recorded the position as it was or appeared to be at that date, namely:

    “1. Upon it now appearing from the reply from the Home Office dated 28th October 2015 to the request for information in Form EX660 that the mother and child cannot now be returned to Belgium pursuant to the Council Regulation Dublin II, and that the Home Office is now substantively considering the mother’s and child’s claim for asylum, which (it appears) are likely to result in the Home Office either granting asylum or seeking to return the mother and the child to Iran;

    2. And upon the present evidence from the Belgian authorities and in relation to Belgium appearing to indicate that the mother and child could be granted admission on a ‘family reunion visa’, but that there cannot be a ‘family reunion’ as the mother would not agree to living again with the father, and would not voluntarily agree to the child living with the father; but that it is possible (but speculative) that the Belgian authorities might permit the mother and the child lawfully to enter Belgium (without passports) on some alternative basis.”

  4. Upon the basis of those recitals, this case was further adjourned until today, and my order made plain, in summary and in effect, that the father had an opportunity meantime to obtain evidence and material from the state of Belgium to the effect that the mother and child would both be permitted lawfully to enter and remain in Belgium and that any fresh application by the mother and child for asylum in Belgium would be considered by that state. The order made clear that the documents and material required to be produced by the father would have to include an original authentic official actual laissez-passer or similar document in respect of each of the mother and the child, which would actually permit each of them lawfully to enter and remain in the state of Belgium.
  5. Over six weeks have elapsed since that order, and the father has not been able to obtain or produce any such material or documents and, quite frankly, it would seem that there is no realistic prospect now of the Belgian authorities permitting this mother and child to return to and enter Belgium on any basis.
  6. Meantime, there has been a further very significant development. By a decision letter dated 16th November 2015 the Home Office informed the mother and the child that they have been granted asylum in the United Kingdom for a period of five years, with leave to remain here until 12th November 2020. The letter makes clear that if they wish to remain after that date, they must make an application for further leave before the leave now granted expires.
  7. So, the position now is that the ability of the mother and child to remain here for the next five years is no longer tenuous but has been granted. There is, therefore, no further imminent possibility or prospect of the mother and child being forcibly removed by the Secretary of State to Iran. Equally, there is no longer the slightest scope for the application of Council Regulation Dublin II or the mother’s claim for asylum being considered in Belgium, since she and the child have been granted asylum here.
  8. In those somewhat unusual circumstances I simply dismiss this claim for a return of the child summarily to Belgium pursuant to the Hague Convention, on the short grounds that it is not practicable or possible for either the mother or the court or, indeed, anyone else to give lawful effect to an order if one was made for the return of this child to Belgium. As I have indicated, there may have been a range of other “defences” to the application, but in the circumstances I have not given any consideration to them and dismiss this application on the short basis that I have described.


All very peculiar.



Children and parties



Not children’s parties, as in the woman who sent some parents an invoice for failure to attend at her child’s party at a dry ski slope resort.


This is the Court of Appeal setting out whether children who are the subjects of an order can appeal that order, or be made a party to the appeal.

RE M (Republic of Ireland) (Child’s objections) (Joinder of children as parties to appeal) 2015


(The Republic of Ireland bit only refers to the country where the children were being ordered to return to – this is a classic Article 13 Hague Convention piece of litigation, and the principles apply across the board)


The Court of Appeal indicate a degree of growing tired of appeals about article 13 and indeed Brussels II, and I have to say that I feel their pain.

  1. In cases under the1980 Hague Convention, speed is of the essence. The object of the Convention is to return abducted children as soon as possible to their home country, restoring the status quo and enabling the courts there to determine whatever disputes there are about their future upbringing. The longer the time that elapses following a wrongful removal or retention, the more difficult it becomes to return the child. In recognition of this, judgment is expected to be given no later than 6 weeks after the commencement of the proceedings (see Article 11(3) of Brussels IIa (Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 of 27 November 2003, hereafter simply “Brussels IIa”) and Article 11 of the 1980 Convention. The procedure adopted is summary.
  2. It may be thought paradoxical that a summary procedure such as this should have generated the quantity of jurisprudence that the 1980 Convention has. Over the years there have been many technical and sophisticated legal arguments about how its terms should be interpreted and a significant number of appeals.
  3. Technicality of this sort gets in the way of the objectives of the Convention. In Re P-J (Children) [2009] EWCA Civ 588[2010] 1 WLR 1237, Wilson LJ (as he then was) observed, “Nowadays not all law can be simple law; but the best law remains simple law.” In recent times, it has become increasingly apparent that the law relating to child’s objections under Article 13 of the Convention, as it is presently perceived to be, is far from simple law. To judge by the number of applications to the Court of Appeal for permission to appeal on this point, it is not at all easy to put into practice. Does this have to be the case?

There were two major rows in this appeal. The first was whether a previously decided case, Re T  (which indicated that if a child did object to a move, that would probably be determinative of the application) was now wrong, in the light of the principles arising from the Supreme Court that children as young as 6 could voice an objection   – and the Court of Appeal decided that Re T doesn’t really stand up any more on that point – the child’s objection is one of the range of factors to be considered but is not determinative of the application.

The second was whether the children, who manifestly were objecting but the original trial judge had held were not, could be parties to the appeal or even bring an appeal.


The Court of Appeal decided that children CAN appeal or be joined and also give some practical guidance.

  1. There was no dispute that there was binding Court of Appeal authority establishing that the children could in principle be permitted to bring their own appeal, even though they had not been parties in the court below, see for example George Wimpey Ltd v Tewkesbury Borough Council [2008] 1 WLR 1649, referred to in Re LC by Lord Wilson at §11. Neither was there any dispute that they could be joined as parties for the first time at the appeal stage of proceedings. However, the procedural framework for their participation is possibly somewhat deficient.
  2. The FPR 2010 deal comprehensively with the participation of children in proceedings but it was agreed between the parties that when the question of the participation of a child arises for the first time at the Court of Appeal stage, it is not the FPR 2010 which apply but the CPR 1998, which do not cover the ground as thoroughly.
  3. I have already referred to Rule 16.2 FPR which provides that the court may only make a child a party if it considers that it is in the child’s best interests to do so. There is no equivalent provision in the CPR. Rule 19.1 and 19.2 CPR provide:

    “19.1 Any number of claimants or defendants may be joined as parties to a claim.

    19.2 (1) This rule applies where a party is to be added or substituted except where the case falls within rule 19.5 (special provisions about changing parties after the end of a relevant limitation period).

    (2) The court may order a person to be added as a new party if –

    (a) it is desirable to add the new party so that the court can resolve all the matters in dispute in the proceedings; or

    (b) there is an issue involving the new party and an existing party which is connected to the matters in dispute in the proceedings, and it is desirable to add the new party so that the court can resolve that issue.

    (3) The court may order any person to cease to be a party if it is not desirable for that person to be a party to the proceedings.

    (4) The court may order a new party to be substituted for an existing one if –

    (a) the existing party’s interest or liability has passed to the new party; and

    (b) it is desirable to substitute the new party so that the court can resolve the matters in dispute in the proceedings.”

  4. Rule 52.1 definesappellant” and “respondent” for the purposes of part 52 as follows:

    “(d) ‘appellant’ means a person who brings or seeks to bring an appeal;

    (e) ‘respondent’ means –

    (i) a person other than the appellant who was a party to the proceedings in the lower court and who is affected by the appeal; and

    (ii) a person who is permitted by the appeal court to be a party to the appeal;”

    It includes no guidance at all as to when a person should be permitted by the appeal court to be a party to the appeal, let alone any guidance tailored to the situation of a child who wishes to participate. This does not mean, in my view, that welfare considerations are irrelevant to the decision whether to join the child; they are, as I observed in Re LC, “by no means out of place”. But they are not necessarily determinative and there is no best interests threshold such as there is in the FPR. Although not strictly applicable, I see no reason why regard should not be had to the guidance provided in Practice Direction 16A of the FPR to the extent that it may prove useful in the rather different circumstances of the Court of Appeal and the specialist sphere of Hague Convention proceedings. Lord Wilson referred to it at §§50 et seq of Re LC and I will not rehearse it further here.

  5. Neither is there any equivalent in the CPR to the provisions of the FPR which require or permit a guardian to be appointed for a child. It may be that the provision in CPR Rule 52.10(1) whereby, in relation to an appeal, the Court of Appeal has all the powers of the lower court, would provide a basis for the appointment of a guardian. But that does not arise for decision in this case. Adequate protection for the child’s interests on an appeal can generally be achieved in any event by means of a litigation friend appointed in accordance with Part 21 CPR.
  6. Part 21 CPR deals with children and protected parties. A ‘child’ means a person under 18 years of age (Rule 21.1(2)(b)). Rule 21.2(2) provides that a child must have a litigation friend to conduct proceedings on his behalf unless the court makes an order under Rule 21.2(3) permitting the child to conduct the proceedings without. Rule 21.2(4) provides that an application for an order under Rule 21.2(3) can be made by the child. If the child already has a litigation friend, it must be made on notice to the litigation friend but may otherwise be made without notice. The court may appoint a litigation friend by order (Rule 21.6). Alternatively, Rules 21.4 and 21.5 deal with becoming a litigation friend without an order.
  7. The functions of a guardian are well understood by family practitioners and are set out in the FPR. CAFCASS guardians (often with a social work background) are the most familiar guardians but they are not the only type. Lord Wilson observed in Re LC that, had Cobb J made T a party to the first instance proceedings in that case, she would have been required to act by a guardian but that such a status might have been conferred on her solicitor. He also observed (§55) that the grant of party status to a child leaves the court with a wide discretion to determine the extent of the role which he or she should play in the proceedings. He explained the sort of involvement he would have contemplated had T been a party and said that it would have been for her guardian to decide which of the documents filed in the proceedings should be shown to T.
  8. The functions of a litigation friend are no doubt fully understood in the usual civil context in which the system operates although the researches of counsel did not produce any authorities to enlighten us further about how they actually carry out their functions or as to the principles that the court should apply when deciding whether to order that a litigation friend is not necessary. How a litigation friend is to function in the very different environment of an appeal in a Hague Convention case is rather more opaque. No guidance is to be found about that.
  9. Fortunately, this area of work is well served by very experienced solicitors who are familiar with these sorts of proceedings and extremely capable of looking after the interests of the children affected by them. In this case, the solicitor for J and D was appointed as their litigation friend and appears to have been able to discharge that role efficiently and without encountering any difficulties in practice. This sort of arrangement may often commend itself where the question of joining children at the appeal stage arises.
  10. Children need to know that their views are being listened to and that their particular concerns are not being lost in the argument between their parents but it must be recognised that direct participation in proceedings can be harmful for children. As Lord Wilson said in §48 of Re LC, “[t]he intrusion of the children into the forensic arena….can prove very damaging to family relationships even in the long term and definitely affects their interests”. I therefore contemplate that it may be necessary for a litigation friend to guide and regulate the child’s own participation in the proceedings, just as a guardian would. He or she will no doubt determine which documents filed in the proceedings should be shown to the child and take decisions, in consultation with the child, about whether the child should attend the court hearing. In the very unlikely event that an intractable issue arises between the litigation friend and the child, there may be no alternative but to ask the court to give directions, but I would expect such a situation to be extremely rare. What I do not think a litigation friend can do is provide a welfare assessment for the court in relation to the child as a guardian would do. However, where the litigation friend is the child’s solicitor, as I anticipate will be so in the vast majority of cases, he or she will no doubt assess the case and guide and support the child in their approach to the litigation, as any solicitor would do for an adult client.


Just in case you were thinking that a door has been opened here, the Court of Appeal try to close it, just like you might if you open your door on a Sunday just as Sky Super Sunday is about to begin only to find two well-dressed people wanting to talk to you about Jesus. The door might still be technically open, but there’s no way that anyone is feeling like there is a welcome invitation to come in and break Jammy Dodgers with you.

I end this section of my judgment with a cautionary note. It should not be expected that an application for children to be involved in proceedings, either as appellants or as respondents, for the first time in the Court of Appeal will be received sympathetically. By the time the matter reaches the Court of Appeal, it is usually far too late in the day to address this sort of issue. I have said several times already, and make no apology for saying again, that this needs to be thought of at the very outset of the proceedings. As to how an application made at that stage may fare, nothing that I have said in this judgment is intended to affect the existing jurisprudence on the subject.




She moved to his prairie, and married a Texan


A very peculiar case, involving international law and an application for a Passport order.

SC and BH 2014


This case had started as Hague Convention proceedings in England in 2010. The father, a Texan, had applied for the Court to return the child to him in Texas, on the basis that the mother had unlawfully removed the child. That hearing did not go too well for the father


  • During the course of his judgment in the Hague Convention case, His Honour Judge Jenkins made a number of damning findings in relation to the father’s credibility and approach to the case. These included evidence that the father produced:




“… showed the father’s lack of self-awareness. It demonstrates his insensitivity to the feelings of others, including the mother. He was shown not to be credible on matters that went to the heart of the evidence and also on matters that were not central but could have been helpful in establishing his personal credit.”


A further finding was that the evidence given by the father that:


“… the parties had gone to England for an extended holiday, appeared not to be founded in reality.”


And again:


The father was driven to accept that he was accustomed to making grandiose statements. The job applications that have been exhibited contain many misleading statements or downright lies. The persistence of the father’s positive claims for himself and his position in life is a hallmark of someone who is a fantasist and self-deceiver.”


His Honour Judge Jenkins also examined the basis that the father said founded the mother’s retention of the child in this country as follows:


The father puts his case on the basis of a conspiracy between the mother and various relatives… The evidence that there was a conspiracy is almost non-existent. Its existence is so improbable that I feel I need to make no other observation other than that I do not accept that there was one. The alleged conspiracy, it should be said, was that the mother quite deliberately went to the United States and became pregnant by an American citizen with the sole purpose of thereafter abducting the resulting child.


Finally, His Honour Judge Jenkins made the following observations in relation to the father’s general trustworthiness in relation to litigation:


My mistrust of the father extends to his conduct of the litigation. I do not trust him in relation to undertakings that he gave so belatedly about the mother and ACH in order for the hearing to go ahead… I therefore have a concern about his attitude in the Texas proceedings were the mother and child to be ordered to go to America, and the value of any undertaking given by him in relation to criminal proceedings.



  • Following the conclusion of the Hague proceedings, the mother applied, on 23 December 2010, without notice, for a residence order and a prohibited steps order, preventing the father from removing ACH from the mother’s care, the jurisdiction, her home or her school. These orders were made and therefore continued on the return date on 27th January 2011. They have remained in force to date.



Well, that’s the end of that then.

Not quite, because what happened then was that the father went to Court in Texas and got orders in entirely the opposite direction.


  • I am told that, upon advice from her US lawyers, the mother did not engage in these proceedings and, despite the finding of this court as to ACH’s habitual residence and of the availability to that court of the judgment of HHJ Jenkins, the Texan court nevertheless made an order in the father’s favour in the mother’s absence. The first of these orders was dated 19th August 2013 and states as follows:




The Court further finds that BH shall be the only named Conservator of the child, ACH SH, as the Court finds that it is not in the child’s best interests to name SC as a Conservator as such would endanger the physical and emotional welfare of the child. It is ordered that BH is appointed Sole Managing Conservator of the following child, ACH SC. It is ordered that BH as Parent Sole Managing Conservator, shall have the following exclusive rights and duties: (1) the right to designate the primary residence of the child without regard to geographical restriction… The right to apply for and obtain a passport for the child without the consent of or notice to SC.


The provision in relation to the passport went on as follows:


If BH, as Sole Managing Conservator of the child applies for a passport for the child, it is ordered that BH has the exclusive right to apply for and obtain a passport for the child without the prior consent of SC and is not otherwise required or ordered herein to notify SC of his further application for or receipt of any passport for the child. It is further ordered that BH shall have the exclusive right to maintain and hold any passport for the child.”



  • On 5 September 2013, the mother unsurprisingly having failed, pursuant to the Texan order of 19th August 2013 to return ACH to the jurisdiction of the United States, the US Court made a further ex parte order. The order states as follows:




The Court finds that it has previously made an order on 19 August 2013 finding that it is not in the best interests of the child to name the Respondent as a Conservator, and the Respondent’s conservatorship would endanger the physical and emotional welfare of the child. Further, the Court finds that the Respondent has a history of abusing legal narcotics and further has left the child’s habitual residence and home state, absconding and abducting the child using fraudulent inducement with the intention of keeping the child from the Petitioner and has further failed and refused to return the child to the Petitioner as ordered by this Court’s August 19 2013 orders. The Court finds that the Respondent has already abducted the child and herself faces risk of apprehension in the United States as well as the United Kingdom and that, as a result, there exists a clear risk that the Respondent will further secrete herself and the child making it nearly impossible to locate and return ACH SH in the future.



  • The court thereafter went on to issue a warrant seeking physical custody of ACH and for her to be returned to the jurisdiction of the United States. The order purported to direct all law enforcement agencies:




“… Police Departments, Interpol, Federal and State agencies, Government agencies, Sheriffs, and any other authorised law enforcements in this State or in any other jurisdiction as necessary and specifically including any person authorised under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act to immediately take the minor child into custody and return the minor child to the physical custody of the Petitioner, BH.”



  • The mother’s situation therefore vis-à-vis the Texan courts is as follows:




(1) the father has sole residence of ACH; 

(2) the mother would appear to be being stripped of her parental responsibility; (3) ACH, who has never been separated from her mother since birth, is seemingly to be removed from her care forthwith and thereafter to have only supervised contact with her mother;

(4) the father can obtain a passport without the mother’s consent and is not required to notify her having done so.



  • At first blush it may seem surprising that the Texan courts should have assumed jurisdiction in circumstances where the father had failed in his application for the summary return of the child to the US in the Hague proceedings in the England. I bear in mind however that in a European case a non-return under the Hague Convention is not necessarily the end of the matter because of Article 11 which applies in Article 13 cases (so would not have applied in this case where the obstacle to return was the fact that ACH’s habitual residence was in England not Texas). The European position does however exemplify how Hague non-return orders are not always the end of the matter. This court has no information or evidence as to the Texan arrangements in relation to the exercise of jurisdiction in relation to a child post – Hague.





  • Whatever may have been the jurisdictional basis which led the Texan courts to assuming jurisdiction in ACH’s case, the fact remains that ACH lives and is habitually resident in this country and the English courts have jurisdiction to deal with all and any issues in relation to her welfare. It is against this background and the findings of HHJ Jenkins that the mother has applied for the making of the passport order.


That would mean that if the father came to the UK and took the child, he would be able to get the child back to Texas and the mother would have no chance of being able to recover the child, despite the rulings in her favour in the UK Court.

That is why the mother applied for a Passport order.  (I have to confess, not being a specialist international lawyer, that was a new concept to me)  – the Passport order would be an order that if the father entered the UK, his passport and any passport he was carrying in the child’s name would both be seized. That would obviously stop him leaving the UK with the child (0r indeed at all)


The Court’s powers to make such an order don’t come from statute, but from the inherent jurisdiction – my best efforts are that this first got determined in Re A-K (minors :foreign passport jurisdiction) 1997 where the High Court ruled that the inherent jurisdiction did give the power for the High Court to remove a passport from a foreign national.

The mother’s legal team righly brought to the Court’s attention Charles J’s authority of B v A  – warning the Court to be careful about making such serious orders


  • Miss Ridley, counsel on behalf of the mother, very properly brought my attention to the case of B v A (Wasted Costs Order) [2013] 2 FLR 958, a judgment by Charles J where there was consideration of ex parte applications in the context of Tipstaff orders. She referred me in particular to paras.6 and 7 as follows:




“6. Tipstaff orders, and thus location orders, are (and are designed to be) powerful weapons in the search for children and the determination by the courts of England and Wales of issues relating to their future. They enable public authorities to interfere in the private lives of adults and children and carry serious penalties. It should be known to all judges who grant them that experience has shown that:

i) the travelling time of a flight to England can often allow for steps to be taken to meet the relevant adult and child at the airport on arrival,

ii) the orders can often be triggered when an adult comes to the notice of the police for some other reason (e.g. a motoring offence), and

iii) these possible triggers to an order mean that care needs to be taken to ensure that their enforcement (and so possibly an arrest and detention under them) only remains a possibility for as long as they are needed to fulfil their purpose.


7. The potentially serious impact of such orders means that those who apply for them and those who grant them should act with caution and due regard to the principles and procedures relating to the grant of relief on a without notice basis (see for example [a case relating to passport orders] a case seeking a financial remedy but the same approach is required to a case relating to the alleged abduction of a child or other proceedings relating to a child).”



  • Miss Ridley further, in the light of B v A, draws the court’s attention to the fact that there has been no direct threat made by the father to abduct ACH. Further, she accepts that the making of the order that she proposes potentially restricts the freedom of movement of the father and that, as in all cases which do cause such a restriction, it must be proportionate and must not be open-ended. The risk, however, she submits is very real, and the consequences for ACH are so severe that the making of the proposed order is proportionate in all the circumstances, particularly with the safeguard that she suggests to the court, of a return date within 48 hours of seizure of travel documents upon the father’s entry to this country.




In this particular case, the risks were considered sufficient for the Court to make such an order



  • Miss Ridley prays in aid:





(i) the concerning findings of HHJ Jenkins as to the credibility of the father and the court’s inability to rely on any undertakings he may give; 

(ii) rather than seek involvement and orders through these courts, nearly three years later, the father has been to the Texas court and obtained orders which simply cannot be regarded on any view as child-centred, involving, as they do, on their face, the removal of this young child from her mother to a stranger;

(iii) the father has set out to put himself in a position where he can, if he abducts this child, with the benefit of the American passport he is able, legitimately to obtain for her, get her out of the UK and having done so he will thereafter have the protection of the Texan courts on his return to the United States. The Texan orders mean that the court cannot presume that a Hague Convention application would necessarily succeed where there has been no acceptance by the Texan courts that ACH is in fact habitually resident in this country.



  • Having read the papers and in particular the judgment of HHJ Jenkins I am satisfied that it would be inimical to ACH’s welfare for her to be removed from her mother’s care by her father who is a total a stranger and for her to be taken from all she knows to a foreign country. Rather, the father should accept the reality that ACH’s home is in the United Kingdom with her mother and, having accepted that, start working with these courts and with the mother to establish contact and to build up a relationship with his child. Until such time as he does that, or ACH is of such an age that she cannot be effectively abducted, I take the view that his actions to date inevitably lead the court to conclude there is a real risk that the father will use the vehicle that he has put in place, namely passport and Texan orders, to enter into this country and abduct ACH.





  • In those circumstances, taking all the matters into account and with the wise words of caution of Charles J in B v A, at the forefront of my mind I make the passport order sought.


Hopefully the order, and service of it, will discourage the father from coming to the UK. It might not, in which case, there’s going to be a very difficult conversation at Passport control. If you are flying back from America, and you get behind a man in the queue wearing a ten-gallon hat and shouting about “passport orders”, just move to a different queue, you could well be there for some time. That’s assuming that the father doesn’t go back to the Texas Court and get an order authorising the use of nuclear weapons against the High Court. They don’t say “don’t mess with Texas” for fun, you know.


There is some corner of a foreign field that is forever not part of the Hague Convention


The quirky case of Leicester City Council v Chhatbar 2014 – which features without a doubt the best application for permission to appeal I’ve ever read

The parents names are reported in the case because they are freely available to view on the Interpol website  (the Daily Mail attended the hearing and sought that permission to name the parent, which was granted)

    1. On 12th October 2013 at a time when Mr. Chhatbar and Miss Rahman frankly concede they knew that Abdul Rahman was the subject of protective measures, they left England and Wales and travelled to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. As is well known, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is recognised as an independent state only by Turkey. The rest of the world, and specifically the European Union, regard the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus as being a military occupation by Turkey of part of the Cypriot Republic. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is not a signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Effects of Child Abduction, nor does it subscribe to or apply the child abduction provisions of the Brussels II regulation.


    1. The court can easily conclude that a motive for these parents taking this child to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is that, uniquely within Europe, it represents a safe haven from the provisions of the 1980 Hague Convention.


  1. The reason I am being asked to determine that on 17th October 2013 when Abdul Rahman was made a ward of court he was habitually resident in England and Wales is not in order to demonstrate that on 12th October 2014 he was unlawfully removed from England and Wales within the terms of Art.3 of the Hague Convention. The reason I am being asked to determine this issue is in order that the local authority would be equipped to argue, should Abdul Rahman ever be taken to a Hague Convention country, that from 17th October 2013 he was being unlawfully retained by the parents in Northern Cyprus. In order for an unlawful retention for the purposes of Art.3 to be proved, it has to be shown that on the relevant date Abdul Rahman was habitually resident here and that at that time rights of custody had been vested in this court. Plainly the latter criterion was satisfied because this court had made him a ward of court on that day. The question is whether on that day he was habitually resident here.


If you are going to do a runner then, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is a good destination.  (though read the whole thing before booking your flight)

As it isn’t a signatory to the Hague Convention, there is no straightforward method in international law for compelling the return of the child (there MIGHT be in the law of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, but frankly who knows?).

The City Council asked the High Court to declare that the child had been unlawfully removed from England under article 3 of the Hague Convention, not so they could get the child back from Northern Cyprus, but rather so that if the family set foot in any other bit of Europe, the child COULD be recovered.

Mr. Downs frankly concedes that this exercise only becomes relevant if Abdul Rahman is taken by his parents to a Hague Convention country of which, of course, Turkey is one, the Republic of Cyprus is another, and Greece is yet another. He argues, as does the Council which he represents, that this is a reasonably foreseeable prospect. First, they say that the parents were, in fact, in Turkey as recently as December 2013. They say they went there in 2013 for a holiday. Secondly, they say that in order to be able lawfully to stay in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus they need to leave the country every 90 days in order to re-enter and receive a new 90 day tourist visa.

The Judge heard from the parents by videolink, considered all of the relevant law and facts and reached this conclusion

    1. In my judgment, on 17th October 2013 both the parents and the child had their habitual residence in England and Wales. They had not severed their integration in this country. Their social and family environment was in England and Wales. Of that I have no doubt. I do not need to speculate further on the motives that drove them to leave to go to Northern Cyprus although pretty easy conclusions can be drawn.


  1. I say nothing about the merits of the local authority’s case other than to observe that at the relevant time the father was under an order of probation awarded by a criminal court in relation to an offence of domestic violence. He was obliged under our law to be in this country in order to undergo the period of probation that had been awarded. Beyond that I say nothing about the merits of the steps taken by the local authority. Nor do I want to give anybody any indication of the likelihood of success, should these parents go to a Hague Convention country, of an application under the Hague Convention to such a country for the return of Abdul Rahman to this country. Of that I say nothing at all. I confine myself strictly to saying only that on 17th October 2013 the child, Abdul Rahman Chhatbar was habitually resident in England and Wales.


What follows then, is the father’s application to appeal, which I’ll print in full

MR. CHHATBAR: Excuse me.


MR. CHHATBAR: Can we appeal your decision?

MR. JUSTICE MOSTYN: I have given my decision. I have declared that Abdul Rahman was habitually resident in England and Wales on 17th

MR. CHHATBAR: Yes, I heard all that. We heard all that. We are asking you can we appeal your decision.

MR. JUSTICE MOSTYN: OK. So you need to ask me for permission to appeal.

MR. CHHATBAR: Yes, that is what we are asking.

MR. JUSTICE MOSTYN: I can only give permission if I am satisfied that you have got a real prospect of success or there is some other good reason why an appeal should be heard. Is there anything else you want to say about that?

MR. CHHATBAR: Yes, it is a joke, isn’t it? It is a fraud. It is a fraud mate. It is all a fucking fraud.


MR. CHHATBAR: Good luck in trying to find us. Good luck.

MR. JUSTICE MOSTYN: Thank you very much.

MR. CHHATBAR: The court has got no jurisdiction. We are never coming back to England. Good luck. See how powerful you are, yes. You are powerful sitting there in your chair. It is a fucking fraud.

MR. JUSTICE MOSTYN: Thank you very much, Mr. Chhatbar. It is a shame –

MR. CHHATBAR: See if you are a good parent sitting in that chair when your son takes cocaine. You are a joker, my friend, you are a joker.


The transcript doesn’t indicate whether there was any pause, and if not, hats off to Mostyn J for his response

MR. JUSTICE MOSTYN: All right. Mr. Chhatbar applies for permission to appeal. Under the Civil Procedure Rules Part 52 the permission can only be given if I am satisfied that there is a real prospect of success or there is some other compelling reason why the appeal should be heard. In as much as I can understand Mr. Chhatbar, he says that my decision is wrong because I have no jurisdiction and because it is fraudulent.

I consider that I have applied the law scrupulously to the facts of this case. I am completely satisfied that there is no prospect of success of an appeal, let alone a real one, and that there is no other compelling reason why the appeal should be heard. I therefore refuse permission. Mr. Chhatbar, of course, is entitled to renew his application for permission with the Court of Appeal. Thank you very much.


The Judge then goes on to address the Press in relation to accuracy of reporting (lets see if this makes any difference when they report the case)

On 3 March 2014 a report appeared in the Daily Mail authored by a journalist who had been in court[2]. In the report it was stated “Financial adviser Mr Chhatbar and travel agent Miss Reheman, 19, fled after a relative made an allegation to Leicester city council social services that Mr Chhatbar had a violent past. It is a claim the couple vigorously deny, but social workers warned them to split up so Momo could live with Miss Reheman in safety or else they would seize the baby.” The report failed to mention what I had said in the first two sentences of para 17 concerning the father’s conviction for an offence of domestic violence. Further, to the best of my recollection, what was written was not mentioned in court. The President, Sir James Munby, has recently emphasised in Re P (A Child) [2013] EWHC 4048 (Fam) at paras 26 and 27[3] that while the court will not exercise any kind of editorial control over the manner in which the media reports information which it is entitled to publish there is nonetheless, for obvious reasons, a premium on accurate press reporting of proceedings such as these.


[For the avoidance of doubt, this judgment, at which representatives of the Mail were present, WAS BEFORE that article was published, and the author of the article was in Court]

If you must Hague, don’t be vague


The “too long, didn’t read” version – if you’re making an application in the High Court under the Child Abduction and Custody Act 1985, bring your chequebook. And if you’re doing that, and are listed before the Honourable Mr Justice Charles, ring your bank manager first.



A discussion of the decision in the High Court of B v A 2012


As readers of the blog will know, I often lavish praise on High Court Judges. I am fond of High Court Judges who have admirable qualities, such as clarity of thought, beautiful construction of sentences, being able to illuminate a difficult point with a clever analogy, or who are fundamentally kind and appreciate the human dynamics of the cases that appear before them.


I am not afraid of distributing praise in those circumstances – I would say fulsome praise, but I am mindful of the words of Inigo Montoya   (no, not, “my name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die!”  – the other one)  “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means”


Don’t ever say fulsome if you mean generously complimentary….   Or at least, not to a word-geek.



Anyway, this judgment is by the Honourable Mr Justice Charles and is bloody important for anyone who deals with abduction cases, both solicitors and counsel.



It would be fair to say that he was irked during the course of this judgment. He considered that insufficient care had been given both to the very serious nature of the application for a location order and to involve the tipstaff, and moreover to the inherent risks of doing so where the initial application was made ex parte, and the facts laid out before the Court were both partial  and potentially partisan.


The Judge begins by setting out the reasons why making such orders is extremely serious


  • Tipstaff orders, and thus location orders, are (and are designed to be) powerful weapons in the search for children and the determination by the courts of England and Wales of issues relating to their future. They enable public authorities to interfere in the private lives of adults and children and carry serious penalties. It should be known to all judges who grant them that experience has shown that: 

    i) the travelling time of a flight to England can often allow for steps to be taken to meet the relevant adult and child at the airport on arrival, 

    ii) the orders can often be triggered when an adult comes to the notice of the police for some other reason (e.g. a motoring offence), and

    iii) these possible triggers to an order mean that care needs to be taken to ensure that their enforcement (and so possibly an arrest and detention under them) only remains a possibility for as long as they are needed to fulfil their purpose.


  • The potentially serious impact of such orders means that those who apply for them and those who grant them should act with caution and due regard to the principles and procedures relating to the grant of relief on a without notice basis (see for example Young v Young [2012] 2 FLR 470 at paragraph 26 (ii) to (v). That case related to a passport order in a case seeking a financial remedy but the same approach is required to a case relating to the alleged abduction of a child or other proceedings relating to a child).


Nothing at all to disagree with there.

The Judge was perturbed that an application had been made that was not  constructed as well as it ought to have been. He reminded the applicant’s counsel of a valuable  previous authority B Borough Council v S & Anor [2006] EWHC 2584 (Fam)   dealing specificially with how inappropriate it was for these applications to be made without notice without a great deal of care.


  1. General comment on without notice applications

37. There is a natural temptation for applicants to seek, and courts to grant, relief to protect vulnerable persons whether they are children or vulnerable adults. In my view this can lead (and experience as the applications judge confirms that it does lead) to practitioners making without notice applications which are not necessary or appropriate, or which are not properly supported by appropriate evidence. Also there is in my view a general practice of asking the court to grant without notice orders over a fairly extended period with express permission to apply to vary or discharge on an inappropriately long period of notice (often 48 hours). It seems to me that on occasions this practice pays insufficient regard to the interests of both the persons in respect of whom and against whom the orders are made, and that therefore on every occasion without notice relief is sought and granted the choice of the return date and the provisions as to permission to apply should be addressed with care by both the applicants and the court. Factors in that consideration will be an estimation of the effect on the person against whom the order is made of service of the order and how that is to be carried out.

38. Inevitably on a without notice application the court hears from only the applicant. Good practice, fairness and indeed common sense demand that on any such application the applicant should provide the court with:

i) a balanced, fair and particularised account of the events leading up to the application and thus of the matters upon which it is based. In many cases this should include a brief account of what the applicant thinks the respondent’s case is, or is likely to be,

ii) where available and appropriate, independent evidence,

iii) a clear and particularised explanation of the reasons why the application is made without notice and the reasons why the permission to apply to vary or discharge the injunction granted should be on notice (rather than immediately or forthwith as in the standard collection and location orders) and why the return date should not be within a short period of time. As to that I accept and acknowledge that a reference to notice being given if practicable, or for a short period of notice (say 2 working hours or just two hours if a week end or holiday period is imminent), may often provide an appropriate balance to avoid a sequence of effectively without notice applications, and that in some cases a longer period of notice may be appropriate, and

iv) in many cases an account of the steps the applicant proposes concerning service, the giving of an explanation of the order and the implementation of an order. This is likely to be of particular importance in cases such as this one where emotional issues are involved and family members of a person who lacks capacity are the subject of the injunctions and orders. In such cases, as here, information as to those intentions are likely to inform issues as to the need for, and the proportionality of, the relief sought and granted

39. As to point (ii) I pause to mention that in my view it is surprising and disappointing how many times a without notice application for relief is made in the Family Division based only on largely unparticularised assertions by one side of serious allegations without any third party material to support them, or more generally the basis for the relief sought. I appreciate that in many instances there is a very real urgency and there will not be third party evidence of allegations of abusive behaviour that are readily available but in others there will be. A classic example, which occurs regularly, is that an applicant who seeks a return of children to his or her care fails to provide any third party evidence (e.g. from a school, a GP or records in their possession) to confirm that he or she is indeed the primary carer of the relevant children.

40. Guidance has often been given on the information to be provided and the procedure to be followed in seeking without notice relief (see at first instance Re S (a child) (ex parte orders) [2001] 1 WLR 211, [2000] 3 FCR 706, W v H (ex parte injunctions) [2000] 3 FCR 481 (by analogy X Council v B (Emergency Protection Orders) [2005] 1 FLR 341 and Re X (Emergency Protection Orders) [2006] EWHC 510 (Fam)) and in the Court of Appeal Moat Housing v Harris [2005] 2 FLR 551 in particular at paragraphs 63 to 69, and see also the notes to CPR Part 25 and the practice note now reported at [2006] 2 FLR 354).

41. Naturally I endorse that guidance and do not seek to add to it save to emphasise the points made above and to record my own observations that practitioners (a) too regularly do not follow and implement that guidance, and (b) by such failure show an insufficient appreciation of the exceptional nature of without notice relief and the impact it has (or potentially has) on the rights, life and emotions of the persons against whom it is granted.

42. As to this I acknowledge that the courts must take part of the blame for such failures by granting relief without notice in cases when (a) the guidance has not been followed, and (b) the impact on the person against whom the relief is granted could be considerable.

43. I add that additionally there is a need (a) to comply strictly with undertakings given at the time the order is made, and (b) to keep full and proper records of what is put before the court and said to the court. This should include a record of the times of the hearing so that a transcript can be more easily obtained. The availability of a transcript does not however reduce the duty of those applying for without notice relief to keep a full record of what the court was shown and was told.


Having quoted those passages, the Judge then indicated that he fully agreed with them    and added to them


16. As well as endorsing the guidance set out above, there are three additional comments I would make:

(1) If information is put before the court to substantiate a without notice order, it should be the subject of the closest scrutiny and, if the applicant is not present in person to verify it, be substantiated by production of a contemporaneous note of the instructions. If that is not available, there may need to be a short adjournment to enable steps to be taken to verify the information relied upon.

(2) If additional information is put before the court orally, there must be a direction for the filing of sworn evidence to confirm the information within a very short period of time. If that direction had not been made in this case, the passport order would have been executed when the grounds for obtaining it were simply not there. That would have involved a gross breach of the defendant’s rights, quite apart from the court having been given misleading information.

(3) Lastly, leaving the scrutiny that the court should give to without notice applications to one side, it is incumbent on those advising whether such an application is justified to consider rigorously whether an application is justified and be clear as to the evidential basis for it.”




All very good points, I have been on the other end of a number of ex parte applications, and when you come to Court and outline what the other side of the story is, you often see the Judge’s expression become “Well, if I had known THAT…”  


And these applications are of course, an immensely serious interference with someone’s liberty and free movement, and it is therefore important that a great deal of care is taken, both by the advocate presenting the case and by the tribunal determining it.



The long and short of this case was that the applicant’s representatives ended up not just not getting the order, but with something far, far, far worse than that. Probably the worst outcome you can ever get if you send counsel off to Court to make an application.  

  1. As mentioned in B Borough Council v S, I recognise that there is a natural temptation for applicants to seek, and for courts to grant, relief to protect the vulnerable, and, I add, to find children who it is alleged have been abducted. But this temptation, and the strong public interest in granting such relief, does not provide an excuse for failures to apply the correct approach in law to such applications. Indeed, if anything, the strong public interest in providing such relief and its impact on the subjects of the relief and their families mean that the correct approach in law should be followed and so the sound reasons for it, based on fairness, should be observed. Naturally this applies to all without notice applications, but it can be said to have particular importance when Tipstaff orders are sought and granted because they can found a deprivation of liberty without further court involvement, and they do restrict freedom of movement.
  1. In my view, a practice of granting and continuing Tipstaff orders in Hague Convention cases as a matter of course and without insisting on properly prepared, particularised and updating evidence is to be deprecated.



  1. It seems to me that if such failures are to be avoided in the future there is a need for judges:

i) to refuse to make without notice orders if the established principles and procedures are not applied (I and some other judges do this), and

ii) to treat such failures as negligent and thus as a foundation for the exercise of discretion to make a wasted costs order.

  1. Sadly, the first course alone has not resulted in general improvement and it is to be hoped that when the second course is added it will. But, I acknowledge and confirm that this promotional effect is not a ground for making the order rather it is a potential product of making such an order applying the approach set out in Ridehalgh.



And more chillingly for advocates


  1. Generally, a litigant has to take the consequences of such behaviour and look to his advisers for recompense but I have concluded that the application for costs against him should be refused, because:

i) the point that the shortcomings in the presentation of his case by his advisers is a reflection of endemic failures of family practitioners and courts means that his conduct should not be categorised and reprehensible or beyond the band of what is reasonable (see paragraph 80 hereof), and

ii) the policy and merits arguments referred to in paragraphs 82 to 84 support no such order being made.



Thus it wasn’t the client who was going to be hit for costs, but rather his representatives



  1. Also, in my view:

i) the merits and policy arguments referred to in paragraphs 82 to 84 above, and

ii) the point that the father’s solicitors are unfortunate to be singled out when their failures to comply with the principles and procedures relating to without notice applications are widespread in the Family Division and were not picked up by a number of judges,  warrant reductions in the costs to be awarded as wasted costs.

  1. Taking the above into account, in respect of the costs schedule up to the hearing on 10 September 2012, I make a wasted costs order against the father’s solicitors in the sum of £18,000 (to include VAT).


The Judge had actually knocked quite a bit off the costs to reflect that this was a warning shot across the bows and that the particular advocates involved had not been worse in their failings than many other cases.  But implicit in that is “woe betide”


I suspect that there may well be some family barristers who are having gentle chats with their clerks about whether the cab rank rule means that they need to take cases where they are liable to be personally stung for costs of £18,000 plus, and frantic calls to the RCJ list office to determine tribunals might well be being made.


I do wonder also whether sufficient weight has been given here to the very nature of the applications – a parent believes their child has been abducted, the child is missing, information is sketchy and develops piecemeal, and often the most strikingly important details emerge during the course of the day and are not necessarily reduced to affidavit form in advance. I also wonder how much better such cases will be presented in the High Court when those advocates who are skilled and accomplished at presenting them no longer want to bear the personal risk of doing so…