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Duncan Lewis Solicitors represented Diplomat’s challenge to the High Court concerning enforcement of orders in light of diplomatic immunity (12 April 2018)

Date: 12/04/2018
Duncan Lewis, Child Care Solicitors, Duncan Lewis Solicitors represented Diplomat’s challenge to the High Court concerning enforcement of orders in light of diplomatic immunity

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The Child Care team at Duncan Lewis Solicitors represented a Diplomat who entered the UK with her children D, S, E and SL aged between 17 years and 7 years old. All the children are nationals of X. The mother is also national of country X and works as a secretary for the X High Commission.

History of case

Shortly after the client entered the UK, problems arose in relation to her children. On 25 November 2016, D divulged to the school a history of ongoing physical abuse from his mother which involved her using implements to beat him. He also reported that the mother used physical punishment on all the younger children including beating them with a belt up to 40 times or until she was tired. The four children were subsequently made subject to police protection. The mother signed a s.20 agreement following expiry of the police protection on 28 November 2016 for the children to be placed in foster placements.

During the early part of 2017, D’s behaviour deteriorated. He became involved in criminal activities, was arrested on several occasions and was believed to be affiliated with a gang. The Local Authority decided to support D’s return to the mother as the risks of return to the mother were considered to be less than risks presented by D’s non-engagement and absconding from Local Authority care.

On 11 October 2017, the mother was recalled to X. The decision by the X High Commission is thought to have been induced by D’s criminal behaviour. In light of mother’s recall the Local Authority changed their position from seeking care orders to seeking planned rehabilitation of the mother if the timing of the recall permitted this.

In February 2018, a certificate pursuant to section 4 of the Diplomatic Privileges Act 1964 was received from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office which stated that the mother’s functions with the X High Commission ended on 31 December 2017 and that, as a result, her diplomatic privileges and immunities ended on 31 January 2018 along with the diplomatic privileges and immunities of her children.

Judgment

The case was heard before Mrs Justice Knowles in two parts, one dealing with the welfare issues and two dealing with the legal arguments about the children’s and their mother’s status in this jurisdiction and whether the Court had the jurisdiction to make final care orders in respect of the three younger children.

Mrs Justice Knowles concluded in her judgment dated 11 March 2018 that it is in the best interests of the children to return to the care of the mother following a period of rehabilitation managed by the Local Authority.

Mrs Justice Knowles concluded that she does have the jurisdiction to make final care orders in respect of the children, all of whom she considered to have lost their entitlements to diplomatic privileges and immunities as had the mother. She stated in her judgment that she would have held the same even if the court had reached the conclusion that the family retained their immunity.

In terms of enforceability of the order, it was held that in light of Article 31 (3) and 31 (1)(c) of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961, ‘VCDR’, that there is nothing to prevent the enforcement of care orders in public law proceedings and this is also compatible with Article 29 of the VCDR.

The mother was represented by Director Ravi Kaur Mahey, of the Child Care department at Duncan Lewis Solicitors, who had instructed Anna McKenna QC, of 1 King’s Bench Walk and Christopher Poole of New Court Chambers.


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