Father of abducted child taken to Japan 10 years ago wants greater awareness of international cases
By Louisa Rebgetz Updated Tue at 10:10pm
A Queensland father is calling for more awareness of international child abductions after his ex-wife fled the country with his son a decade ago.
Toowoomba father Paul Brown’s life was turned upside down when his two-year-old son Liam was abducted in 2005.
His ex-wife took him on a two-week holiday to Japan but never returned.
“I lost all my rights as a father,” he said.
“I suffered greatly from depression, it really ate away at me.
“I’m doing better with it now, I am coping with it but there was a time where I couldn’t even think about it or talk about it without breaking down in tears.”
He now networks with hundreds of parents in the same situation around the world and wants more awareness of the issue.
“I think there needs to be a bit more international pressure to acknowledge that it is a crime,” he said.
Mr Brown now knows where his son lives in Japan, but so far has been refused access to him.
He holds out hope that one day they will be reunited.
“I’ve lost his childhood but hopefully by the time he is old enough I can at least share his adult years with him,” he said.
New guidelines for lawyers to be distributed this week
Brisbane-based family lawyer Geoffrey Sinclair deals with cases like Mr Brown’s all the time.
“We see one to two a month, where a parent has overstayed their time overseas or have taken the child overseas without the other parent’s consent,” he said.
New guidelines on how best to deal with such cases are being distributed to lawyers across the country this week.
“What we are seeing particularly now is people retaining their children overseas when they have been granted permission or agreement to travel overseas, staying in that country longer than the consent has been provided for and at that stage it is then when the Hague Convention may come into play,” Mr Sinclair said.
The Hague Convention stands to prevent children being abducted and to ensure a speedy return between countries.
Japan officially became a signatory last year, joining more than 80 other countries including Australia.
“It is quite common to see that people will marry or form relationships with people overseas, more than they would 20 years ago, and as a result of that they tend to want to go back to their home once their relationship is struggling or have in fact separated from their spouse,” Mr Sinclair said.
Former soldier helps return children to parents at home
Some parents who have been victims of this have taken matters into their own hands, hiring help to bring their children home.
Ex-Australian Defence Force soldier Adam Whittington runs Child Abduction Recovery International, which returns children to the parents left behind.
His service was featured in a recent ITV documentary in the UK which showed a retrieval of a child in Poland.
“Nobody helps these parents and this is why we started helping originally because parents and these children are in dreadful situations,” Mr Whittington said.
He argues the Hague Convention is not worth the paper it is written on, and he only enforces the return of a child when a court has ordered it.
“Non-enforcement of the Hague rulings is why we are so busy … 95 per cent of our work is to enforce the court rulings,” he said.
“If the courts or the system [or] the Hague Convention had the system of enforcing what they actually rule then we would be mostly out of work.”