Rise in number of children abducted by their parents

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A GROWING number of Scots children are falling victim to parental abduction, despite an international crackdown.

The rate of international child-abduction cases is rising in Scotland following the growth of family breakdowns and increasing ease of travel, say legal experts.

While high-profile cases such as that of Molly Campbell - the girl from Lewis whose mother claimed she was abducted by her Pakistani father - are relatively rare, Professor Kenneth Norrie, the head of Strathclyde's law school, told The Scotsman "dozens" of cases were emerging in Scottish courts every year - and that the number was rising.

Britain is one of nearly 60 countries which has signed up to the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, which ruled that courts in the country to which a young person is taken must, with few exceptions, return the child.

But writing in legal magazine the Journal, Prof Norrie says the convention has failed to tackle the problem.

"The original hope was that the incidence of child abduction would be reduced by the removal of any potential benefit an abductor might obtain.

"But the increase in family breakdown and ease of international travel has more than countered the deterrent effect."

According to the Scottish Executive, in 2005 some 24 cases, involving states signed up to the Hague Convention, were raised in Scottish courts. Last year the number increased to 27.

Charities have also warned that the number of children taken illegally to countries such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, India and Dubai - all non-signatories of the convention - is also rising as mixed marriages and divorces become more frequent.

Denise Carter, of the charity Reunite, which specialises in international parental abduction cases, said: "Child abduction is growing at an alarming rate, and it is very, very difficult to get your children back."

Child abductions brought to the Court of Session in the past year include:

• "K" - born to a couple who met in Australia. The mother returned to her native Scotland with the child, ostensibly on a holiday, but decided to stay. The father went to the authorities seeking K's return.

• Girl "K", boy "M" - A Polish couple had K and M, then divorced. The mother came to Scotland to seek work and brought the children with her. The father said they had been abducted.

• Boy "M", four; girl "S", two - A Scotswoman had two children with a Dutchman while they lived in the Netherlands. The mother brought the children to Scotland, allowing the father to believe this was temporary.

Prof Norrie said majority of cases reaching the Court of Session involved mothers who were "overstepping their authority" by removing the child. "They think, 'I have custody of the child, I can do whatever I like', ignoring the fact the father has contact rights.

"People imagine that child abduction almost always involves spurned men snatching their son or daughter from the school gates, but it's almost always the custodial parent at fault."

• "K", a BOY now aged five, was born to a Scotswoman who met the child's father while travelling in Australia.

The mother, 33, picked fruit and mushrooms to earn money, while the father stayed at the family's home in Tasmania, looking after their child.

However, the couple's relationship began to fall apart towards the end of 2005.

Early last year, the father agreed the mother should bring "K" to Scotland to visit her family. The visit was to last for four months.

While in Scotland, she began a relationship with another man and chose to stay with him in Scotland. "K" began attending the local Scottish primary school, speaking to his father weekly by telephone. The father wanted "K" back and proposed that the child should live with the mother in Scotland for six months each year, and should live with him in Australia for the remaining six months.

The mother refused and the father began court proceedings under the Convention on International Child Abduction, seeking his son's return to Australia.

The mother claimed her ex-partner was an unfit father, often drinking and smoking cannabis and said returning her son to Australia would expose him to grave risk of harm. The father called her a "liar".

In March, the Court of Session, bound by the convention, ordered the boy's return to Australia.