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Father ‘can be jailed repeatedly’ in child contact dispute

A father has been told that he can be jailed repeatedly if he continues to disobey court orders relating to the whereabouts of his four-year-old daughter.

The issue arose following the break down of his relationship with the girl’s mother.

He was allowed contact with his daughter but that wasn’t enough. In 2009 he abducted her and took her to Pakistan. The girl was then made a ward of court so the father took her to Iran, which has no arrangements with the UK in relation to international child abduction.

The father was arrested but refused to give details about his daughter’s whereabouts, despite a court order being made. He was then held to be in contempt of court and jailed for two years.

When he was due to be released, the matter came before another judge who made a fresh order. The father again refused to comply and so was sentenced to another year in prison.

He appealed on the grounds that it was wrong to punish him again for the same offence. The mother submitted that the judge was right to impose a second sentence. Otherwise, it would send out a message that it was possible to disobey court orders, with only two years in jail as punishment.

The Court of Appeal ruled against the father. It held that any court would have to look at the impact on the girl of growing up without a relationship with her mother.

Each time the father refused to comply with a court order was a new and fresh occasion, and so further prison sentences were justified.

Whether that would continue to be the case in future would depend on the facts at that time but for now, the father needed to realise that the court was resolved to getting the girl back to her mother and was not going to give up.

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