Towards the end of last month I attended the Child Abduction Conference 2015, organised every year by 1 King’s Bench Walk, a leading set of family law chambers in London. All profits from the event went to the UK’s only international parental child abduction charity, Reunite International. The conference was held in the Parliament Chamber in the Inner Temple. Never have I attended a legal conference at which I listened to absolutely every word.
Lasting all day, a lot of ground was covered. I am not going to attempt to reproduce it all but will instead focus on the presentation given by Joanne Orton, the manager of Reunite International’s advice line.
I was not expecting the situation in Japan to be mentioned – this was not, of course, a conference in Japan or concerned with Japan and I do not sense that there are many Britons in my situation. However, not only was Japan mentioned but Ms Orton made some comments on Japan that surprised me. Going by information available to Reunite, the number of abductions to Japan is said to fallen since the Hague Convention came into force, the reason being that Japanese females are (or try to be) law abiding. Reunite had involvement with Japanese lawyers and the Japanese government in the two years leading up to the implementation of the Hague Convention and the preparation undertaken in setting up the system by the Japanese was described as “meticulous”. Ms Orton also reported a much greater use of mediation, including in cases involving Japan, which goes some way to making up for the fact that the Japanese courts do not recognise foreigners’ rights in regard to access to children.
More generally, it was reported that the increasing willingness of both parents to use mediation has meant that progress has been made in a high proportion of cases that Reunite has become involved in – even in cases of countries that are not signatories to the Hague Convention, although the progress rate is lower in the case of those countries. Cases that Reunite has become involved in have not always resulted in the return of the child but have, in many cases, resulted in progress short of a return – such as contact. In 2012, Reunite made progress in 91.5% of its cases concerning Hague countries and 65.5% of its cases involving non-Hague countries. The cases in which progress was not made include cases where parents give up, cannot face the problem, conclude that it is not in the best interests of their children to do anything and, in 3 or 4 recent UK instances, parents have killed themselves.
I have been in touch with Joanne since the conference and she has kindly agreed that I can reproduce the statistical graphs used in her PowerPoint presentation on behalf of Reunite. Links to the graphs are below – I have not been able to reproduce them in the body of this post itself. The graphs show:
- the increase in calls to the Reunite advice line between 2005 and 2014; and
- the increase in the number of abduction cases that Reunite has been involved in from 1995 until 2014.