Parents who abduct children should face longer in prison, says top judge
Parents who abduct their own children could face life sentences because of the “unspeakable cruelty” they cause, the country’s most senior judge said yesterday.
That could mean them facing life imprisonment instead of the current seven year maximum for child abduction.
Lord Judge said the maximum term for child abduction should also be increased because it currently does not meet “true justice”, especially for the other “loving parent” whose children are snatched away.
The call for a review came as he dismissed sentence appeals by two fathers who abducted their children and took them abroad “for very many years”.
He said cases where fathers abducted children and took them abroad “have become increasingly troublesome”.
Lord Judge said: “The abduction of children from a loving parent is an offence of unspeakable cruelty to the loving parent and to the child or children, whatever they may later think of the parent from whom they have been estranged as a result of the abduction.”
Ruling on a separate case in 1991, the Court of Appeal concluded that in cases where a parent abducts their child prosecutors should “avoid altogether charging anyone with child kidnapping”.
But sitting in the same court yesterday, Lord Judge said: “Our view is clear.
“Simply because the child has been abducted by a parent, given current conditions, it no longer necessarily follows that for policy reasons a charge of kidnapping must always be deemed inappropriate”.
He said the previous ruling “has no continuing authority” and asked the Law Commission, the Government’s legal advisers, to address the issue as part of its ongoing review of kidnap laws.
It paves the way for such parents being charged with kidnap and facing a possible life sentence.
Lord Judge also called for those convicted of child abduction to face longer terms by raising the maximum term available for such offences beyond the current seven years.
He said there were currently child abduction cases which “merit a sentence greater than the maximum current sentence of seven years imprisonment after a trial”.
The “wide discrepancy” between sentences for kidnap and abduction offences under “seems illogical”, he said
Sitting with Lord Justice McFarlane and Mr Justice Royce, Lord Judge said: “There are some cases of child abduction where, given the maximum available sentence, with or without the appropriate discount for a guilty plea, the available sentencing options do not meet the true justice of the case, properly reflective of the culpability of the offender, and the harm caused by the offence.”
Such crimes result in “depriving the other parent of the joy of his or her children and depriving the children from contact with a loving parent with whom they no longer wish to communicate,” he said.
The court dismissed an appeal by Talib Hussein Kayani, 49, who pleaded guilty at Luton Crown Court to two offences of abducting a child and was sentenced in June to five years imprisonment.
The two sons, who were taken to Pakistan until 2009, have not seen their mother since 2000 and still refuse to have contact with her.
Madhat Solliman, 58, who pleaded guilty at Harrow Crown Court to three counts of abducting a child and was sentenced to three years jail in April, also lost his sentence appeal.
He abducted his three children in 2002 and took them to Egypt before returning in 2009.
Lord Judge stressed that abduction was an offence of “great seriousness” and in both cases the mothers had “suffered extreme emotional hardship”.
He said: “The periods of abduction were prolonged, many years in duration, and the relationship with the mothers was irremediably damaged.
“In the case of the mothers, the hardship will be life long.”
Lord Judge also called for tougher penalties for those who breach court order designed to prevent forced marriages, describing the current sentence of two years as “utterly inadequate”.
The Home Office is currently consulting on whether to make forcing someone in to a marriage as a criminal offence in itself.
Lord Judge added that forcing someone to marry against their will also effectively results in them being raped.
source> Telegraph UK> Tom Whitehead