It has been 2 years since I had any significant information about my son: the occasion of the visit by British consular officials on him on Saturday 16 March 2013. It is now 16 March 2015. The report can be read here – and a slightly earlier post concerning the scope of the visit can be read here.
In the weeks and months immediately following receipt of the report, I read it over and over again. I pored over every word, and attempted to read between the lines, to mine as much information as I could about my son’s life in Japan. A couple of discoveries, though neither were in truth particularly surprising, were that he attended a nursery and that he did not seem to understand much English, although he was said to be learning a little. It was also implied that he lived at his grandparents’ home with his mother, although again that did not come as a surprise. It was reassuring to learn in an email from an official that gifts mailed to him there would be passed on to him.
After about 6 months or so I stopped reading the report as it became hard to do so and because I almost knew it by heart. The report mentioned a couple of my son’s friends and, whilst I was pleased that he was well settled, it made me bitter that they (just friends) saw more of my son than I did. It was by then also clear to me that, whilst Hugo’s mother had consented to the visit taking place, it was not going to be the first step towards a greater level of information about my son’s life in Japan, whether through the conduit of the Embassy or otherwise.
The Child Abduction Unit at the Foreign Office made clear that the visit was unlikely to be repeated and I have received no significant ongoing assistance from them or the Embassy in Japan at all since the visit. I hope that it might be possible for an exception to be made, and a further visit conducted, a couple of years down the line from now as by then, unlike the situation that existed in March 2013, my son would understand what the visit was about and would be able to ask questions of his visitors. On reflection, perhaps it was this that was the reason why my son’s mother agreed to the visit occurring when it did, i.e. when my son was so little, safe in the knowledge that the visit was unlikely to be repeated when he was older, able to understand what such a visit was about and capable of asking questions of independent visitors about his past life.
The report did tell me a little about my son’s interests – he likes dogs and “mechanical things”. I have done my best in the last two years to use that limited information to help inform what gifts I send to him and what I write on this website; the previous post but one, for example, would at first seem to have little to do with child abduction – it was posted because my son likes mechanical things so I hope that the post would interest him one day. I recall that he was always fascinated by aircraft, trains, buses and so on of which there was never any shortage to see in London.
Re-reading the report 2 years on, I am left wondering why, during an hour spent in my son’s presence, more information was not obtained and why, for example, the officials did not ask for copies of school (nursery) reports, nor for details of that nursery nor for details of where/how he is said to be learning a little English. It seems from the report that the question was not asked, not that the information was refused. Why not give the name of the TV programme that he enjoyed so I could view it too? In hindsight, I wish that I had sent a list of questions in advance of the visit. In addition, my son’s mother was not directly asked to explain her conduct in taking such a young boy, unable to understand what was happening to him or to make decisions for himself, despite the fact that Hugo is a British citizen and the Embassy exists to safeguard the interests of all British citizens; it must be the case that such duties are heightened, not diminished, when it comes to children. Although I welcomed the information that I did glean from the visit, I cannot help but think that more could have been achieved from it.