Child abduction cases reached 233 last year

 

THE AUTHORITIES here dealt with 233 cases of child abduction last year, according to the latest figures from the Department of Justice. Some of the cases concerned more than one child.

The department is the central authority for child abduction in Ireland. It processes requests for the return of children taken into Ireland by one parent or other relative without the permission of the other parent or, in some cases, the public institution with custody of the child.

The cases are heard in the High Court in camera. The authority also sends requests abroad where Irish children are taken out of the jurisdiction by a parent or other relative without permission.

Most cases, 140 involving 193 children, were new, with 93 still active from 2009. Of the 140, 64 concerned children who were brought to Ireland from other countries and 76 were children brought to other countries.

The country most likely to be involved was the United Kingdom, which accounted for 54 of the 140 new cases in 2010. The next highest number of cases involved Latvia, which accounted for 15 cases, and Poland, with 13, while 34 cases involved other EU states.

Under the child abduction international conventions to which Ireland is a party, the return of the child may only be refused if it is likely to cause serious risk to the child or if the child strongly objects and has reached an age where it is appropriate to take account of his or her views.

Of the 117 cases heard, the High Court ordered the return of the children in 10, refused it in four and in 14 the children were either returned voluntarily or the parties reached an agreement. Foreign courts ordered the return of children to Ireland in 15 of 116 cases, refused it in six and in nine cases there was an agreed outcome. Fifty cases were still being processed at the end of 2010.

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said the figures illustrated the importance of estranged parents seeking to resolve differences by agreement, through mediation or as a last resort by way of court proceedings, rather than unilaterally removing children.