Re D. (Article 13B: Non-return) [2006] EWCA Civ 146

INCADAT legal file Hague parental abduction

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Grave Risk – Art. 13(1)(b)
Central to the finding of the High Court was the fact that in June 2005 the mother was the vicitim of a pre-meditated and targeted shooting while the father had also been the victim of attacks. The judge therefore concluded that the children were in danger of physical injury if present with either of their parents at the time of such attacks. She noted that 24 hour protection would diminish such risks, but could not provide complete protection. In appealing the father attacked various aspects of the judgment, including the judge’s evaluation of the mother’s evidence, her acceptance of expert testimony which was not always objective and in speculating as to the outcome of the on-going proceedings in Venezuela. The Court of Appeal accepted some of these points but nevertheless found that they did not undermine the essence of the case or affect the reality of the harm that the children would be exposed to. Of primary importance for the trial judge was the emotional harm it was clear the children would face if returned. Expert evidence affirmed it was important that the girls remain with their mother, in a place where the latter enjoyed stability, to enable them to acquire emotional stability. While accepting this assessment, the Court of Appeal was prepared to go further than the trial judge, suggesting that the physical risks alone were sufficient to activate the exception. It reiterated however that it was an exceptional case.
The court agreed with the trial judge at para. 28 that ?the children have not been subject to any attack and are less likely to be targeted victims than their parents, but [were] in danger of physical injury if present with either of their parents at the time of such attacks”. The court also noted that the trial judge found that ?24 hour constant supervision by armed guards […] in itself would not provide complete protection but would diminish the risk somewhat”.