Prince William visits Japan

Hello Hugo

Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge and the second in line to the British throne, ended his 4 day visit to Japan today.  On arrival at Haneda Airport, he was met by Tim Hitchens, the British Ambassador, to whom I have written in the past about not being able to see you.

The BBC reported here that the visit commenced on 26 February 2015 with a boat ride across Tokyo Bay. The Prince then par took of tea at the Nakajima tea house in the Hamarikyu Gardens. The tea was served by 92 year old Dr Genshitsu Sen who had served tea to William’s parents, Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana, when they visited Kyoto in 1986. The last time there was a visit to Japan  by a member of the British Royal Family was in October 2008, the month before your birth, when Charles and is now wife Lady Camilla visited.

On 27 February, the BBC reported here that William met with the Emperor and Empress at the Imperial Palace. He also paid his respects at the Hodogaya Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery, 20 years to the month from when his mother, Diana, did on a solo trip of her own to Japan in 1995, about 2 years prior to her death in 1997.

On his last full day in Japan, 28 February, the BBC reported here that William dressed as a Samurai warrior on a visit to the NHK studio in Shibuya.  He then headed north for a visit to areas devastated by the March 2011 earthquake and tidal wave. He had dinner with Shinzo Abe in Koriyama in Fukushima last night and, prior to his departure from Japan today, visited survivors in Ishinomaki in Miyagi about which there are reports here from the BBC and here from The Telegraph.

‘You can’t hug Skype’ – father resists removal of child to Hong Kong

‘You can’t hug Skype': Father wins legal battle against ex-wife trying to take their two-year-old son to Hong Kong after judge agrees you can’t cuddle over the internet

By Chris Pleasance for MailOnline

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A mother who wanted to relocate to Hong Kong taking her son with her and leaving the father behind in England has had her request turned down because ‘you can’t hug Skype’.

The mother of the two-year-old boy said the child could stay in contact with his father using phone calls, internet video calls, and visits.

However, the man argued that visiting Hong Kong regularly was impractical, and that internet services were often unreliable and didn’t substitute for physical contact. 

And at the High Court today Judge Roderic Wood said the plan was inadequate because ‘you can’t hug Skype’, adding that he did not believe the mother would stick to her commitments.

Mr Justice Wood added: ‘The disadvantages of Skype – as any user will know – are all too often the lack of clarity of image, the sound delay even if short and, as counsel colourfully notes in her closing submissions, “You can’t hug Skype”.’

Rejecting the mum’s case, he continued: ‘This is a case where a father, despite obstacles, has built up a very good and profound attachment to his son.

‘The mother’s proposals to relocate – even if her proposals for visits, telephone calls and Skype calls are carried out – in practice do not make up for these losses.

‘For the avoidance of doubt, I do not believe this mother once in Hong Kong, if given permission, would adhere to the contact regime pre-figured in her case.

‘Even if I am wrong about that and she started the programme, it would, having seen her and heard her, only in my view be a matter of time before this regime faltered and collapsed.

‘I simply did not, in the light of my findings…believe her as to her intentions.’

He continued: ‘Both these parents are capable of raising [the child] physically and of giving him physical care and nurture.

‘It is the mother’s inability to recognise in any real way the value to [the child] of having his father in his life and to facilitate and encourage it which leads me to find that in reality she would let [the child’s] opportunities for continuing and developing his relationship with his father wither or even cease abruptly.’

The decision means the boy will stay in England, where he can have direct contact with his father.

Source:  “‘You can’t hug Skype': Father wins legal battle against ex-wife trying to take their two-year-old son to Hong Kong after judge agrees you can’t cuddle over the internet”, Daily Mail, 27 February 2015

Surprising outcome in Spain-UK abduction case

The flow of UK higher court parental child abduction cases has become a torrent. There is now a third Court of Appeal decision on the issue so far this year – issued barely a week into February. There have also been a couple of new decisions at High Court level (where all such cases start) since the beginning of January 2015 as well. These can be read here and here for readers who are interested. At the time of writing, of the ten cases decided by the Family Division of the High Court since the beginning of January 2015, two (or 20%) have been parental child abduction cases.

On the face of it, the latest Court of Appeal decision is a surprising one, troubling even. The case concerned a 14 year old boy. His parents separated when he was about 18 months old. Between 2003 and the summer of 2014 the boy lived in Spain with his mother. He would regularly visit his father in the UK. He traveled to the UK for one such visit on 19 July 2014. He did not return to Spain.

Both the High Court and, on appeal, the Court of Appeal found that the child was not returnable to Spain under the Hague Convention. The reason was that the Article 13 exception (child’s objection) applied. This exception is not an absolute one as the courts could, in the exercise of discretion, have returned the child anyway, if the circumstances as a whole warranted it. That did not however happen in this case. The reasons the courts decided as they did turned largely on the individual facts, and the fairly advanced age of the boy, but of note are the words of Lord Justice Davis, alert to the possibility of this decision being seen as perverse, in the second judgment given by the Court:

49.  The parents in this case had reached a thoroughly sensible arrangement in the English family court proceedings, embodied in a consent order made on 6 May 2003. Their arrangements with regard to E thereafter had been operated by reference to that consent order. When the mother put E on a plane at Madrid in July 2013 for his usual summer holiday with his father in England, she naturally would have expected him to return a few weeks later in accordance with the consent order and the agreed arrangements. E would likewise at that time have expected to return. But this did not happen. Further, the English court has refused to order his return. Imagine her feelings.

50.  One surely has to have some concern about the wider potential implications of such an outcome. If there is to be a perception that children may not be returned, even after a short visit to a parent in England and even after prompt application made, parents may be reluctant even to agree the sensible kind of consent order made in this case in circumstances where consent orders are to be encouraged. Or parents may become increasingly reluctant to abide by the terms of such a consent order. Would the mother have put E on the plane at Madrid had she thought this might happen? She would not.

[…]

52.  The position then is that each such case is fact and circumstance specific. That gives flexibility, in a context calling for flexibility, even if it comes at the cost of certainty. In my view, the judge was, in this case on the evidence before him, entitled to make the findings that he made and to evaluate the evidence as he did. He was entitled to give full weight to the report and evidence of the experienced CAFCASS officer. Whilst Mr Williams’ minute dissection of the evidence and of the judgment operated to confirm, to my mind, that the mother had a powerful case to pursue, I think, with all respect, that ultimately his approach imposed far too great a burden of judicial exposition to be required of first instance judgments in such cases (in what, after all, are summary proceedings). At all events, the judge here dealt with all relevant points. He sufficiently spelled out the reasons for his conclusion and for the way in which he exercised his discretion. The appeal court cannot be used as a vehicle for conducting in effect an entire rehearing in such circumstances.

60th Birthday

Hello Hugo

Your paternal Grandmother turned 60 today.  To mark the occasion, here is a photograph of you being held by her.  It was taken in London on 4 December 2008, when you were 6 days old:

hugo041208-4

Your Grandmother was born in London in 1955.  I came across this article in the Daily Mail late last month – it consists of photographs showing what London looked like back then, a very smoggy city.

You last saw your Grandmother in July 2010 when she came to London with some other members of the family to have lunch with you at this Tapas restaurant in Bromley.

First return order: Osaka High Court dismisses mother’s appeal

On 21 November 2014 I wrote here about the first Hague Convention return order issued by a Japanese court.  A judge in the Osaka Family Court ordered the return of a child to Sri Lanka.  The mother, who had taken the child to Japan, appealed – about which I wrote briefly on 9 December 2014.  It has now been reported that the High Court of Osaka has upheld the original decision and dismissed the mother’s appeal thereby clearing the way for the implementation of the first Hague Convention return order of a child from Japan.  There is a further right of appeal but it is to the Supreme Court so the odds must be very much against the case going any further in the system, all the more so because, as I wrote before, it is difficult to see how the courts could have arrived at any other decision.  It now remains to be seen whether and when the order will be enforced.

There do not appear to be any English language reports of the latest decision available.  I have only been able to find this report of it in Japanese (taken from the Sankei Shimbun and published on 30 January 2015):

2015.1.30 19:40更新

スリランカへ子供の返還命令 母親の即時抗告棄却 大阪高裁

 国際結婚の破綻などで国外に連れ去られた子供の取り扱いを定めたハーグ条約に基づき、スリランカに住む40代の父親が、30代の母親と西日本で暮らす娘(5)の返還を求めた審判の即時抗告審で、大阪高裁(金子順一裁判長)は30日、娘をスリランカへ返還するよう母親に命じた大阪家裁決定を支持し、母親側の抗告を棄却した。

大阪家裁は昨年11月、ハーグ条約に日本が加盟して以来、国内初となる司法判断を出したが、母親が不服として即時抗告していた。

これまでの決定などによると、父母はいずれも日本人。3人は平成25年2月、父親の仕事の都合でスリランカへ渡航し、昨年6月に一時帰国した。再び3人でスリランカに戻る予定だったが、母親が父親に戻る意思がないと伝えたため、スリランカに戻った父親が娘の返還を申し立てた。

金子裁判長は決定理由で、娘が帰国後も現地のインターナショナルスクールに通学予定だったことなどから「居住国はスリランカ」と認定した家裁決定を相当と判断した。「娘がスリランカに行くことを拒んでいる」などとする母親側の主張も認めなかった。

Source:  Sankei Shimbun, 30 January 2015