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Child Abductions from NZ continue unchecked

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:
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“[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.