Step forward for campaign to close legal ‘loophole’ on child abduction in Scotland

Yousif Ahmed

CAMPAIGNERS against the abduction of children by a parent have hailed a Scottish Government consultation on a change in the law as a “positive development”.
Scottish ministers are under pressure to close a “loophole” which means a parent can’t always be prosecuted if they take a child overseas from Scotland without the consent of the other parent.

If a child is taken overseas from England and Wales it is a criminal offense under the Child Abduction Act 1984 but the law only applies in Scotland if a court order preventing travel is already in place.

Lawyer Yousif Ahmed, from Glasgow, is leading a campaign to remove the requirement for a court order so that Scotland’s law on child abduction is brought into line with the rest of the UK.
A meeting between campaigners and Scottish Government officials was held this week after it was announced that the so-called loophole will be examined as part of a wider consultation on family law reform.
Ahmed said: “The current Scottish framework fails to protect children and parents in Scotland and far too many children and parents have been let down by a loophole that fails to protect them from this abuse.
“Scottish ministers need to take action to address this ongoing problem. In a joint effort, we have highlighted in great detail the various shortcomings and failures that exist in the Scottish framework and the changes that are needed.
“The Scottish Government has heard the voice of the campaign and has taken our message on board. We are very pleased that as a result of our campaign work, it has now issued a consultation on proposals to reform the law. This is a fantastic achievement within a short space of time.”
Scottish Government figures show the number of international child abduction cases have risen over the last 10 years, from two cases in 2007 to 20 cases in 2016.
The government consultation on the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 is “seeking views on how civil and criminal child abduction by parents can be further prevented”.

The consultation states there may be a need for a “minor change” to Section 2 of the 1995 Act which would mean a court order is no longer required for it to be an offense to remove a child from Scotland without appropriate consent.
Ahmed, who is director of legal services at Cannons Law Practice, added: “I would ask everyone to get behind this extremely positive development by encouraging the Scottish Government to implement the proposals set out in the consultation and effect the positive legislative change that is needed in Scotland.
“Together, we can make a difference and achieve a positive and lasting change that will help to protect children and parents all across the country from this abuse.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “There is already legislation in place making it an offence in Scotland for a person connected with a child under 16 to take or send the child out of the UK without the appropriate consent where a court order is in place awarding custody of the child to another person or prohibiting removal of the child from the UK.
“Depending on the circumstances of the case, someone suspected of child abduction may also be charged with the common law offenses of abduction or plagium.
“The consultation on the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 seeks views on a range of issues, including whether to change the law in Scotland on parental child abduction and we welcome the constructive contribution from campaigners on this issue.”

Peter Swindon @PeterSwindon 
Senior reporter, Sunday Herald

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