The children, two girls, were 14 and 11 3/4 at the date of the alleged wrongful removal. They had lived in New Zealand for the majority of their lives. The parents were separated. In late 1986 the mother took the children to the United Kingdom. On 20 June 1986 the High Court ordered the return of the children to New Zealand pursuant to its inherent jurisdiction. Numerous proceedings then followed in New Zealand.
On 15 February 1994 custody was granted to the mother with interim access to the father. The father appealed. On 9 October 1995 the appeal was heard in tandem with the mother’s application to remove the children permanently to England. The High Court of New Zealand refused the mother’s application and made the children wards of the court.
The mother left for England alone. The two children remained in New Zealand in the care of foster parents. Following a judicially chaired conference in New Zealand between all the parties on 25 January 1996, the mother took the children to England. Once return proceedings were initiated the children applied to be joined as parties.
On 13 March 1996 the High Court sat to determine this preliminary issue.