1 April 2014

Today is a bit of a catch-up day with recent news in terms of this blog.

In addition to William Hague’s recent trip to Japan, it has been reported that the Hague Convention will be formally implemented on 1 April next year.  This will at least provide some hope for those caught up in all of this after that date but it has yet to be seen whether or not Japan will in fact cease to be regarded as a “safe haven” for those abducting children, even after 1 April next year.

As a non-Japanese, it is very easy to lose sight of the fact that many Japanese parents, mothers and fathers alike, also experience the abduction of their children within Japan when marriages fail and, of course, the Hague Convention, an international instrument, will do nothing at all to alleviate their plight.  In addition, it is still very unclear how the Japanese authorities and Japan’s rigid judicial branch – both of whom see the concept of dual parenting as an anathema – will implement the Convention even in cases that are covered by it.  Worryingly, it will fall to them, who have failed so consistently miserably to date, to implement on the ground the provisions of the Convention.

How much will really change on 1 April 2014?

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Child abduction is off the Foreign Office agenda

William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary, recently visited Japan.  Unlike his colleague, Minister of State Hugo Swire on his visit back in January this year (conducted before the Diet signed up to the Hague Convention), he did not raise the issue of child abduction, according to news reports – and there is nothing on the Foreign Office website to suggest otherwise.  This does seem to have been a wasted opportunity – and one that seems to be an intentional one.  It seems, without more, that the Foreign Office regard the Diet as having signed up to the Hague Convention (I will post again about this shortly) as the end of the matter.  It is anything but.  Japan’s actions, such as they are, do not begin to address those cases such as mine and others that pre-date Japan joining the Hague Convention and there is also a significant question mark over how well, if at all, the Convention will be implemented in Japan.

Hague is a man that I greatly admire and he is a great and capable statesman.  He was leader of the Opposition between 1997 and 2001.  Had he still been at the helm of the Conservative party in 2010, it might well have won an outright majority in the election of that year.  I met him towards the end of the 1979-1997 Conservative government, when I was at university, at which time he held a junior Cabinet portfolio.  It is a pity that Foreign Office officials chose not to brief him to raise this issue in his dealings with the various Japanese politicians that he met earlier this month.

The Foreign Office regularly issues press releases and the like condemning Japan’s use of the death penalty for those convicted of criminal offences to which that penalty applies.  Yet that is a sovereign issue for Japan alone and one that does not (often if at all) involve British nationals/interests.  The issue of child abduction, on the other hand, is not an issue for Japan alone as it involves British children and British left behind parents and yet the Foreign Office has seemingly downgraded it as an issue – or does not now regard it as an issue at all.  That cannot be right.  The Foreign Office must get its priorities in order.

Kingston Crown Court

Hello Hugo

I represented a client at Kingston-upon-Thames Crown Court yesterday. Although it is a criminal court, it was dealing with a civil case; I only deal with civil cases. The trip was significant for two reasons:

1. You used to live in Kingston, immediately prior to going to Japan. Although I visit the area often because of this – today was the 91st such visit since you went to Japan – it was the first time that I visited the area for work purposes.

2. Although I have not visited before as a lawyer, this was not my first visit to this court. The first and previous visit was in 2000 or 2001 when I was work shadowing a criminal barrister presenting the prosecution case. I was a law student at the time. I cannot remember anything about the case but I do remember the barrister’s name – she went on to act as junior prosecution counsel in this recent high profile case (maybe read this when you are older as it is not a nice case).

My hearing yesterday was frustrating because the person who had prepared the client’s case could have done a better job and the judge was also unnecessarily difficult, something which my opponent agreed with me about on the way out afterwards. I finished just after 2pm and had a meeting in nearby Wimbledon at 4.30pm so I spent the waiting time by visiting the spot on the edge of the River Thames where we fed the ducks in the past and then by going back to see your old home.

Autumn 2013 gift

Autumn gift

To Hugo: I posted this gift to you from London a week ago, so you ought to have received it on or around today, along with a letter addressed to you about the reasons for the choice of gift and some other things, too.  The photograph was taken just before I sealed the box it was posted in.  Hope you get to safely receive both gift and letter.

Congress eyes bill on abductions

The Japan Times

Congress eyes bill on abductions

 

Oct 11, 2013
A U.S. congressional committee has called for Washington to reach legal agreements with Japan and other countries to help resolve hundreds of cases of children abducted by estranged parents, and urges sanctions when cases aren’t resolved.The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved a bill to require the U.S. secretary of state to reach memorandums of understanding with all nations not party to the 1980 Hague Convention, which requires the return of kidnapped children to their habitual country of residence.

The bill, which needs full congressional approval, would seek to establish a mechanism with each country so that children would be returned within six weeks of a reported abduction.

The bill also calls on the U.S. president to take one or more counteractions if abduction cases are not resolved 180 days after Washington notifies the country to which a child has been taken.

The suggested presidential actions against “a country with a pattern of noncooperation” include the delay or cancellation of scientific and cultural exchanges as well as working, official and state visits. It further orders government agencies not to approve the export of any goods and technologies to the country involved.

“Parental child abduction is child abuse. These victims are American citizens who need the help of their government when normal legal processes are unavailable or fail,” Republican Rep. Chris Smith, the bill’s sponsor, told a hearing.

The largest number of U.S. cases involve Japan, whose courts virtually never grant custody to foreign parents. Paul Toland told the hearing he has not seen his daughter, Erika, since 2003. After her mother died, the girl has been in her maternal grandmother’s custody.