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15 OCT 2013

CONTEMPT: Button v Salama [2013] EWHC 2972 (Fam)

(Family Division, Holman J, 27 September 2013)

Following a family holiday the Egyptian father placed the now 6-year-old child in the care of the paternal family in Egypt where she had since remained. The English mother brought proceedings to secure her return but the father remained in custody due to his failure to comply with various court orders. He had so far served 21 months but the mother submitted there had been no attempt to provide her with information regarding the child or to secure her return.

As Roderic Wood J had found in the July hearing, Holman J also found the father to be dishonest, evasive and to have bitter feelings about the mother. There was no doubt that the father knew more about the child's whereabouts than he was willing to reveal. The judge was satisfied to the criminal standard that the father remained in breach of the orders.

The authority of Re W (Abduction: Committal) [2011] EWCA Civ 1196, [2012] 2 FLR 133 made it clear that it was legally permissible for the court to make successive mandatory injunctions and that a failure to comply would result in fresh contempt proceedings with the possibility of a further term of imprisonment.

It was an aggravating feature of the case that despite now already serving 21 months' actual imprisonment, and despite the court repeatedly ordering the husband to disclose information and cause the return of the child, he stubbornly and contumaciously refused to do so. However, at some point the time would come when further punishment would be excessive but that time had not yet come.

The judge imposed concurrent 6-month sentences in respect of three breaches of the orders. 


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