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It was about 15 years ago that I was struck by the idea that an alliance of common law jurisdictions in international family law, and particularly in the application of the 1980 Hague Abduction Convention, might generate a common understanding of shared good practice and the evolution of more effective remedies. My initial proposal to the US State Department for an Anglo/American judicial conference was enlarged by the Department into the 2000 Washington Conference to which the Department invited the five common law jurisdictions most prominent in the application of the 1980 Convention.
In the context of its time, when multi-lateral judicial conferences in International Family Justice were novel, the conference was an undoubted success. Because of its Washington venue a number of other jurisdictions sent diplomatic observers and its concluding resolutions have been frequently cited. However the Conference did not discuss or decide its future. Within that uncertainty I felt that the obligation was clearly upon the United Kingdom to reciprocate, both as the original proposer and as the source of the common law. Perhaps the intervening years were not wasted since within them I came to recognise the power that might derive from expressing common law unity within the well defined framework of the Commonwealth.
By The Rt Hon Lord Justice Thorpe
The full version of this article appears in the March 2013 issue of International Family Law.
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