Stephen Timms today welcomed a report by the Law Commission recommending that laws relating to kidnapping, false imprisonment and child abduction are due for reform,.
The Commission recommended reforms that will clarify the offences of kidnapping and false imprisonment, and allow for the prosecution of parents who keep their children overseas in contravention of a court order or without permission of the other parent or guardian.
The report made specific mention of wrongful retention where a parent who takes a child overseas with permission but fails to bring them home. Under current law, the parent is not committing a child abduction. To fill this gap, the Commission is recommending that child abduction should be extended to include cases where a child is lawfully removed from the UK but then unlawfully retained abroad.
Over the last 18 months, the child abduction charity, reunite international, its Legal Working Group and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Child Abduction, have been consulting with the government to make wrongful retention a criminal offence, prosecutable and punishable on the same basis as abduction by removal. reunite say that the Law Commission's recommendations are a huge step forward in bringing about a change to legislation. Their statistics indicate that approximately 40 per cent of all abduction cases are in fact wrongful retentions.
Whilst abduction by removal is a criminal offence, abduction by retention is not and so a large number of left-behind parents have no recourse to the criminal process or the assistance of the police, and statutory authorities are not necessarily empowered to act as they can in abduction cases.
Speaking about the report, Stephen said: Stephen Timms MP, Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Child Abduction said: "Our concern around this anomaly in legislation comes in the context of a very marked increase in the number of cases of international parental child abduction in recent years. There should be equality of treatment for what is essentially a serious criminal offence striking at the heart of family life, and in the individual interest of the left-behind parents and abducted children who are victims of retention."
His comments were echoed by the Chief Executive Officer of reunite, Alison Shalaby, said: "In the interests of children, left-behind parents, and of justice, there could and should be a change to legislation so that all left-behind parents have access to the assistance of the police, the criminal process and statutory authorities to ensure the swift resolution of cases of wrongful retention.
"We would like to thank Sir John Stanley MP and Stephen Timms MP, Co-Chairs of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Child Abduction, for supporting our efforts to change legislation. We will continue working together to ensure the Law Commission's recommendations are advanced by the government and legislation is changed to better support abducted children and left-behind parents."