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22 AUG 2011

CONTEMPT: Re W (Abduction: Committal)

(Court of Appeal; Hughes, Tomlinson and McFarlane LJJ; 17 August 2011)

A child was abducted by the father to Pakistan during a contact visit. Father told mother she would never see child again. The father was subsequently arrested on his return to the UK.  The child was made a ward of court and the father was ordered to disclose child's location and to cause child to return. The father arranged for the child to be moved to Iran apparently to prevent his family returning child to UK. The father was arrested and remanded in custody. The judge ordered his committal to prison for 2 years (maximum) and made a fresh order requiring the father to give information about the child's whereabouts.  The judge warned the father that he would face further committal proceedings if he failed to comply. The father failed to comply and 3 days before the expected date of release the father was sentenced to a further 12 months of imprisonment. The father appealed, arguing that the single course of conduct, for which he already received the maximum sentence.  

Appeal dismissed. It was permissible for the court to make successive mandatory injunctions requiring positive action, such as supply of information. Whether permissible in a particular case depended upon facts. Proportionate stage by stage hearing by hearing process that relied on the discretion of judge. Impossible to underestimate the impact on the mother of continued limbo and elongated sense of bereavement. The first contempt was different to the second.

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