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Child Abductions from NZ continue unchecked

Filed under: General — Downunder @ 12:18 pm Wed 29th May 2019

As reported by Sam Sherwood this morning:

A father is taking Customs and Police to court after his wife abducted their 9-year-old son and took him overseas despite a court order banning her from doing so.

The father, whose name is suppressed, obtained an order in February under the Care of Children Act prohibiting his son from being removed from the country until further order of the court.

A border alert was registered with New Zealand Police and Customs, notifying them of the order.

However, on February 7, police and Customs officers allowed the mother to pass through border control at Christchurch International Airport with the boy and remove him from New Zealand.

“This was notwithstanding the border order having been activated and the officers having knowledge of the order,” a High Court decision released on Tuesday said.

The boy’s father is now taking unidentified Customs and police officers to court. His first step was to be appointed the litigation guardian for his son and to seek name suppression.

The 9-year-old was taken to a country that is not party to the Hague Convention on the civil aspects of international child abduction.

The convention ensures children who have been abducted from their country of residence are promptly returned

“[The father’s] concern is that the prospects of him recovering [his son] from overseas are therefore slight. He is concerned that any publication of the details of the case or the individuals involved is likely to prejudice the slight chance he has of recovering his son,” Associate Judge Dale Lester said.

In his judgment on May 23, Judge Lester appointed the father litigation guardian of his son and ordered suppression of the names and identifying features of the applicant, his son, the mother and the country to which the boy has been taken.

The value of Family Court orders has always been questionable as is the cost of using the process for any reason. We are perhaps stumbling along behind England which I saw described recently as the lawyerless court.

Given the recent border controversy we have seen held to account by politicians one has to ask what if anything is being done in respect of this happening again?

That is a question other fathers need answered.

Later the same day, this update:

A woman convinced Customs and police to ignore a border alert and allow her to leave the country with her 9-year-old boy. 

The abduction has prompted the Christchurch-based father to sue both authorities over their failure to stop her. 

Customs said its officers followed “correct procedure” and directed further inquiries to police – but police have refused to comment. 

The father, whose name is suppressed, obtained a Family Court order in February prohibiting his 9-year-old son from being removed from the country until further order of the court. The order generally requires evidence of an immediate flight risk.

A border alert was registered with New Zealand Police and Customs.

Despite being aware of the order, a policeman and a Customs officer allowed the mother and son to pass through border control at Christchurch International Airport on February 7 and board a flight overseas. 

The officers made that decision after speaking with the mother, the High Court statement of claim filed by the father’s lawyer, Nicola Hansen, says. 

What she said remains a mystery, as Customs and police have not provided an explanation. 

MOTHER SENDS TEXT FROM PLANE

While the aircraft was taxiing for departure, the man’s wife sent him a text saying she was taking their son to her home country. The message said the boy would remain there until adulthood with her and her parents.

The father alerted his lawyer, who phoned the Christchurch Central Station and asked police to take immediate action to prevent the plane from taking off or leaving New Zealand air space.

The officer told the solicitor police did not stop people removing children from the country in such circumstances. The officer told the lawyer to call Christchurch Airport.

An airport staff member told the solicitor the plane had just taken off and it was too late. However, inquiries later revealed the plane did not leave New Zealand air space for about 30 minutes after that call.

The destination country is not a party to the Hague Convention on the civil aspects of international child abduction, which ensures abducted children are returned promptly to their home countries. 

‘SYSTEM FAILED FATHER’

Three lawyers are representing the father – Hansen, Dr Gerard McCoy QC and Shane Elliot.

The father since supplied police with the full residential address of his wife and her family overseas and a phone number.

Hansen said the court action was “unprecedented”. The court order was the only protection a parent had to prevent having their child being removed from the country.

“He put all the steps in place he needed to protect his son and when his son arrived at the airport, the border control system that was there to protect him failed. That was the only thing that stood in his way of being taken out of the country and it failed,” she said.

“We’re talking about a young boy, this isn’t just a border control issue, this is a young boy who has been taken away from his father.”

Hansen said despite repeated written and oral requests, police had not provided detail or information. 

“Officially we’ve had no explanation … as to what has happened to the officer or officers involved – and no response as to what they’re doing to ensure that this young boy is returned to New Zealand.”

HOPE GOVERNMENT WILL INTERVENE

Hansen said the father had considered travelling overseas to get his son, but did not want to prejudice any formal recovery attempt by the New Zealand government. 

“If they don’t, we will have to consider it, though it’s incredibly difficult in the country they’re in, there would be such high risk in trying to bring him home.”

The son and father are New Zealand citizens, while the mother is not. The statement of claim said the boy could not get citizenship in the country he went to because it did not recognise dual citizenship.

That would “seriously disadvantage” him, Hansen said.

Customs said in a statement it was “confident that correct procedure was followed by our officers”.

“For more information please contact the police,” a Customs spokeswoman said.

Police refused to comment.

This morning’s update 30th May:

A “heartbroken” father believes he may never see his son again after Customs and police allowed his wife to take the boy overseas in breach of a court order.

The abduction has prompted the Christchurch-based father to sue both authorities over their failure to stop her. 

Customs said its officers followed “correct procedure” and directed further inquiries to police – but police have refused to comment. 

In a statement on behalf of the boy’s father, lawyer Nicola Hansen said her client was “heartbroken”.

READ MORE:
* Police surround school to force boy to visit dad
* Father wins custody of abducted son in Zimbabwe court 
* Police hunt Hamilton woman who allegedly fled country with her son

“[He] misses his son very much. He can’t concentrate. Life is still going on around him, but his mind can’t focus on anything else. He is very worried about his son. All of his son’s toys are still there, his clothes, his shoes at the door. The house is very quiet without him.”

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The boy was a cheeky, funny, happy 9-year-old who was always laughing.

“He loved spending time with his dad swimming, going to the park, going to the beach. He loved building things out of lego. He downloaded games to play on his dad’s phone. When my client really misses him he plays one of his son’s games on his phone.”

The father does not know if he will ever see his son again, but remained hopeful.

“He just really wants his son back,” she said.

“He is really sad that customs and police let his son go. The law should be obeyed by everybody. He is very upset that they didn’t do their job properly.”

The father, whose name is suppressed, obtained a Family Court order in February prohibiting his son from being removed from the country until further order of the court. The order generally requires evidence of an immediate flight risk.

A border alert was registered with New Zealand Police and Customs.

Despite being aware of the order, a policeman and a Customs officer allowed the mother and son to pass through border control at Christchurch International Airport on February 7 and board a flight overseas. 

The officers made that decision after speaking with the mother, the High Court statement of claim filed by the father’s lawyer, Nicola Hansen, says. 

What she said remains a mystery, as Customs and police have not provided an explanation. 

MOTHER SENDS TEXT FROM PLANE

While the aircraft was taxiing for departure, the man’s wife sent him a text saying she was taking their son to her home country. The message said the boy would remain there until adulthood with her and her parents.

The father alerted his lawyer, who phoned the Christchurch Central Station and asked police to take immediate action to prevent the plane from taking off or leaving New Zealand air space.

The officer told the solicitor police did not stop people removing children from the country in such circumstances. The officer told the lawyer to call Christchurch Airport.

An airport staff member told the solicitor the plane had just taken off and it was too late. However, inquiries later revealed the plane did not leave New Zealand air space for about 30 minutes after that call.

The destination country is not a party to the Hague Convention on the civil aspects of international child abduction, which ensures abducted children are returned promptly to their home countries. 

‘SYSTEM FAILED FATHER’

Three lawyers are representing the father – Hansen, Dr Gerard McCoy QC and Shane Elliot.

The father since supplied police with the full residential address of his wife and her family overseas and a phone number.

Hansen said the court action was “unprecedented”. The court order was the only protection a parent had to prevent having their child being removed from the country.

“He put all the steps in place he needed to protect his son and when his son arrived at the airport, the border control system that was there to protect him failed. That was the only thing that stood in his way of being taken out of the country and it failed,” she said.

“We’re talking about a young boy, this isn’t just a border control issue, this is a young boy who has been taken away from his father.”

Hansen said despite repeated written and oral requests, police had not provided detail or information. 

“Officially we’ve had no explanation … as to what has happened to the officer or officers involved – and no response as to what they’re doing to ensure that this young boy is returned to New Zealand.”

HOPE GOVERNMENT WILL INTERVENE

Hansen said the father had considered travelling overseas to get his son, but did not want to prejudice any formal recovery attempt by the New Zealand government. 

“If they don’t, we will have to consider it, though it’s incredibly difficult in the country they’re in, there would be such high risk in trying to bring him home.”

The son and father are New Zealand citizens, while the mother is not. The statement of claim said the boy could not get citizenship in the country he went to because it did not recognise dual citizenship.

That would “seriously disadvantage” him, Hansen said.

Customs said in a statement it was “confident that correct procedure was followed by our officers”.

“For more information please contact the police,” a Customs spokeswoman said. 

Police refused to comment.

This also in the Herald:

A devastated Kiwi dad is suing Customs and the NZ Police for letting his only child be abducted from New Zealand by his mother, defying a court order.

Both police and Customs knew there was a court order banning the 9-year-old boy’s mother from taking him out of the country. Yet less than a week after the order was issued, despite a border alert being flagged, Customs and airport police let the woman board a plane and fly to her home country with her son.

The abduction of his only child has left the father distraught, anxious and unable to sleep, according to his lawyer, Nicola Hansen. She told the Herald the father – whose name is suppressed – “remains traumatised with anxiety, anger and grief at the loss of his only child, and is at a loss as to how this could have happened given the steps he took to protect his son”.

A statement of claim Hansen filed with the High Court in Christchurch said the father was “devastated by the loss of his only child. [He] is inconsolable and has suffered tremendous emotional trauma”.

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“[He] cannot sleep properly, cannot eat regular meals, and cannot properly carry on
his business because of the anxiety, stress, and anger caused by the defendants allowing [his son] to be removed from New Zealand.”

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Customs told the Herald it was confident officials had followed procedure, and said the organisation would not be commenting further on the case while it was before the courts, referring the Herald to police. Police also declined to comment.

On February 1, 2019, the father obtained a Family Court order under the Care of Children Act 2004 forbidding the boy’s removal from New Zealand and for the boy’s passport and any plane tickets to be surrendered.

Police and Customs had copies of the order, which required the father or his lawyer to be alerted if anyone tried to take the boy out of New Zealand.

Yet on the night of February 7, the boy and his mother went to Christchurch International Airport and passed through Customs. When the border alert was activated an unnamed Customs officer called an unnamed airport police officer, who spoke to the mother before allowing her and her son to board the plane, according to Hansen’s statement.

22 Responses to “Child Abductions from NZ continue unchecked”

  1. Evan Myers says:

    There’s a follow up article:

    Mother texts father from plane saying she’s abducted their son

  2. Murray Bacon says:

    Thank you Downunder for bringing this abduction to our attention.
    It is hard to understand how the caught$ and police could hope to be taken seriously, for protecting children from abduction?
    The public should know the truth behind these situations. Hiding these crimes is a form of dishonesty and a very serious one at that.
    Advising the left behind parent that the abduction is taking place, or has been completed, appears to have been a significant factor in Paul McM’s decision to extinguish his life a couple of years later. I remember the judge bowing to the people in the caught, but within a few days enabling the international abduction, by allowing the removal and delaying notification to Paul McM. That action is the opposite of showing respect.
    In essence, I am saying that I view that judge as having a degree of responsibility approaching manslaughter. But as yet, no accountability.
    I know of two other similar cases in NZ, that did not end with parental suicide. In both cases, the abductions were “successful” ie never satisfactorily addressed through the caught system.
    While these abductions remain unaddressed, I cannot see that the caught$ have any honour.

  3. Murray Bacon says:

    STUFF says:
    The destination country is not a party to the Hague Convention on the civil aspects of international child abduction, which ensures abducted children are returned promptly to their home countries.
    _______________________________________________________________________________________
    It was originally hoped by politicians that the Hague Convention would lead to the speedy return of abducted children.
    In practice, lawyers in most countries game the system so that the costs to the left behind parent destroy their ability to keep on pursuing their case through the caught$.
    Result: Lawyers and judges profit and left behind parents are cruelly and ruthlessly asset stripped, for little or no positive outcome. In other words, for all of the Government and parental money spent, practically no child protection value is achieved.
    Stealing from the poor, to benefit the rich.

  4. Evan Myers says:

    There’s a couple of concerns I have.

    Whether the Police have the final say in terms of the cooperation between customs.

    The possibility of corruption.

    Whether the amended Police Act gives them protection from prosecution.

    That the Family Court is not a court of record and does not have the power of contempt.

    Run all that together and this guy is probably one a hiding to nothing.

  5. Murray Bacon says:

    In my opinion, parents should have adequate protections from abduction of their children.
    The nature of these protections should be clearly and accurately and honestly known to the public.

  6. Downunder says:

    There is very little media on this. I’ve copied in above the only three releases I’ve seen.

    It smells of red lawyer oozing green slime with an associate in the Police Commission and an agenda to remove border obstacles for the purposes of mothers only.

    Perhaps I’m being too cynical and we should applaud the Police Minister’s silence while the government plans a rescue mission.

  7. Murray Bacon says:

    This line jumped out and punched me in the head.
    > Customs said its officers followed “correct procedure” and directed further inquiries to police – but police have refused to comment.
    Am I reading this incorrectly when I infer that the “correct procedure” for Customs is to just capriciously ignore directives issued by an NZ court of law?
    Very sage advice from them, to refer inquiries to police who then refuse to comment!
    I am rather guessing that the familycaught$ or police deliberately cocked up the CAPs listing, to allow or force that to happen.
    I can’t think of anything more potentially suicide triggering, than watching your child be abducted to a non-Hague country, before your eyes and not be able to do anything about it.
    In essence it appears that the caught$ order was deliberately ambiguous, to allow the father to feel safe and yet to enable and allow the mother to abscond with the child.
    It looks horrifically unethical.
    It brings out the point, that we need a real Hague Convention, police, customs/immigration and familycaught$…….
    These needs are not new issues.
    https://menz.org.nz/2010/breach-of-justice-as-a-suicide-trigger/
    https://menz.org.nz/2009/example-of-delivering-suicide-triggers-judge-dale-green/

  8. Downunder says:

    @7 Sounds like sufficient grounds to investigate a conspiracy to defeat the course of justice?

    But your right, the police haven’t acknowledged any investigation exists, only refused to comment.

    One can’t help but suggest the Police Commission has been dragged so far into the political world it makes biased decisions about how quickly it now investigates sensitive or politically charged cases.

    Judicial activism upstaged by … ?

    We’d want to know the answer to that sooner rather than later.

  9. Murray Bacon says:

    Official statistics 10 years ago suggested that of every argued parental separation, about 0.1% were internationally abducted. I find that horrific.
    How could any legal worker hold their head up in public, while their own work group (not “profession”) are playing these games, to take financial advantage of families?
    …..while their own work group do this even to other members children?
    I feel for fathers of young children………
    But women are at substantial risk too.
    These manifestations of unbridled greed are not good parenting and are not part of child protection.

  10. tony says:

    N.Z Police under political/ big guys influence ?

    When I asked the Japanese Consulate in Auckland to confirm if one of its Takapuna Japan’s day parade participants ( my accuser ) was or wasn’t there fully masked , from top to toes , in Japanese Micky Mouse costume ( she claimed she wasn’t ) – I received an mail from N.Z Police and a phone call asking me not to contact them anymore at all . In addition, the Police put a marked Police car at the front of mu house etc etc.

    I was told by the Constable that Japan consulate contacted the top N.Z brass to stop me of my fact finding legal action for the forthcoming Family Court hearing . Of course i was scared and ceased all of my defense legal actions. My legal efforts to prove she wasn’t even remotely there was taken against me by the Judge as she wrote in her verdict ” I developed a tunel vision in order to get to the bottom of the accuser’s allegations .

  11. Murray Bacon says:

    #8 Downunder, your comment is very painfully true……
    One can’t help but suggest the Police Commission has been dragged so far into the political world it makes biased decisions about how quickly it now investigates sensitive or politically charged cases.

  12. Downunder says:

    I’ve asked if the Office of the Children’s Comissioner has an interest in this situation.

    Media Reply:

    In response to your questions I can advise that, because the matter is before the court, the Commissioner cannot comment on the matter itself. I can further advise, however, that the Commissioner has not had any contact with the police regarding this matter.

  13. Evan Myers says:

    It’s currently before the court?

  14. MurrayBacon says:

    Excuse #1 – of course it is quite appropriate for the Children’s Commissioner to comment on how effective the system, in general and what plans there are to improve it.
    Does he have no interest in these issues?

  15. Boonie says:

    If … (And I see ‘unprecedented case’ mentioned)

    As we previously did, allowed children to travel on a parent’s passport

    And the abduction is to a non HC country.

    The country doesn’t allow dual citizenship.

    Has the mother abandoned the child’s citizenship at the border?

    Here’s your passport, my son is travelling with his mother on my passport.

  16. Andrew says:

    Hi all, I am the father of a young boy with a Capps listing, mother from a non hauge signatory country. This situation is of great concern to me and I’m sure many more affected parents. It worries me that a precedent is being set, an unannounced policy shift by the authorities is being tried. I hope I’m wrong. If it is it needs to be highlighted, but I’m worried the media are not particularly interested. To this end I have written to the reporter encouraging him to keep following this story up. I would encourage anyone else to do the same.

  17. Downunder says:

    #16

    Thank you for your participation, Andrew.

    Being an individual also in this situation you are more qualified to ask questions in relation to the general circumstance.

    Hopefully that would lead to a more detailed understanding of what is happening, especially for those men currently applying for CAPS orders.

    Look forward to any future comments that might assist other fathers in the same circumstances.

  18. Boonie says:

    @16

    Don’t feel obligated to answer.

    If you don’t mind answering, what does it cost to process a CAPS application these days.

  19. Andrew says:

    Hi Boonie, it’s going on 6 years since it was filed so my memory of it is pretty hazy but I don’t remember it being particularly expensive.

    Hi Downunder, I am planning on asking some questions of the relevant authorities, I will post back here the results.

  20. Boonie says:

    A father is taking Customs and Police to court after his wife abducted their 9-year-old son and took him overseas despite a court order banning her from doing so.

    This opening statement may be misleading.

    Is the mother actually banned from leaving with the child or is it simply a restriction on the use of the passport to a Hague country.

    I don’t know much about it but there could easily be inadvertent misinformation in the news article.

  21. Andrew says:

    I have had verbal confirmation from NZ Interpol that Capps orders are going to continue to be enforced. The police officers that I talked to seemed well aware of this case and of course would not comment on it.
    I have also written to the Minister of Police requesting a confirmation that there has been no change in policy. It will be interesting to see if I get a response.

    To the father of the abducted child, my utmost sympathy. It must be an unimaginable nightmare, made worse by the betrayal by the authorities who’s job it was to protect your child. All power to you in your efforts to return your child to NZ, and also in your efforts to hold to account the people who so badly let you and your child down.

  22. Evan Myers says:

    The passport page was updated 19 May with this;

    For a New Zealand passport to be issued to a child, the consent of only one parent is required. A passport will be refused only if there is a court order made in New Zealand, or an overseas court order registered in New Zealand which has the intent or effect of preventing the issue of a passport or removal of a child from New Zealand or his or her country of residence.

    That possibly hints at the issue.

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