Sunday, 21 August 2011

Mother jailed for child abduction

A Perth mother, who was caught in Adelaide having bleached her hair and that of her son, was jailed for 6 months for his abduction.

The mother had form for abduction. In 2008, after 6 years of litigation,  the mother and father agreed to orders that split the child's care 9 days/5days in favour of the father. Within a month of agreeding to those orders, the mother abducted the son from school. A recovery order was made, and some months later the mother and son were found by police in Melbourne. Orders were made to prevent the mother from approaching the school, removing the chil from his school, or from taking the child from the father's care.The mother was not charged with any offence from this first abduction.

For 11 months after the child was returned to the father's care, the mother had no contact with her son; until one day in November 2009 when she came to her son's school at morning tea, took him and then hid with him in Adelaide. Police found the son hiding in the shower cubicle. Both he and the mother's hair had been bleached, presumably to make it easier to hide.

This time around, the WA Commissioner of Police charged the mother with contempt, for approaching the school, removing the son from school, and for removing the child out of the father's care.

After several adjournments, the trial got underway. The trial judge, Justice Crisford,  found that the mother, who claimed that she was taking her son to protect him from abuse, did not have a reasonable excuse, and that therefore the mother was guilty of the offences. Justice Crisford sentenced the mother to 4 months gaol  for the approaching and removal from school, and 6 months gaol for removal from the father's care.

The mother unsuccessfully appealed the sentence, from what the Full Court of the Family Court stated was a "careful and detailed judgment". The Full Court cited this passage from the trial judge's judgment as to why gaol was appropriate:

...It is my view that the mother must be deterred from any temptation to reoffend. This is addressed to the mother personally, but it is also addressed to the community at large and people who may consider acting in this same manner. The orders of this Court are orders which affect children. They are orders that are made with the best interests of children in mind. The consent orders were changed after the mother removed the child on the first occasion.

There is no doubt that the orders made by the Court and which have been breached here were made by the Court on the basis that it was best for the child due to the circumstances of the earlier abduction that the child live with the mother [sic] and that the mother not be presented with any other opportunity to remove the child. Those orders, as I have said, were made by this Court in the best interests of the child and that is something the community expects from this Court and it is something that this Court must uphold.(emphasis added)


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