Is it a criminal offence if you abduct your own child?

by | May 30, 2022

Appeal Court The Hague, The Netherlands, 

December 2 2019, ECLI:NL:GHDHA:2019:3154

In this case a father kept the children away from their mother for a period of 11 years. The Appeal Court sentenced him to imprisonment for a period of 42 months. The Appeal Court also decided that he has to pay the mother 15.000 euro’s for damages.

The father took the young children to Egypt in February 2005. He simply picked them up from school without the mother knowing being aware. At that point the children were 3 and 8 years old. He changed their names. Later, he moved with them to Sudan, back to Egypt en then to the United Kingdom. He never informed the mother of their whereabouts. Therefore she was unable to have contact with her children.

Different names and locations

In January 2008, the mother was granted sole custody over the children. Later, in 2016, she succeeded in finding their adres. She then got to see her children again that year for the first time since they were taken from her. But she hardly got any contact with the children. The court concluded that after being totally depended on their father for 11 years, without the mother playing any significant role in their lifes, the children did not have a full-fledged relationship with their mother. The Appeal Court states that it must be feared that this wil not change much in the future. The Appeal Court deems it poignant that the father took the mother from the children and the children away from the mother.

Just punishment

The father’s actions constitue a criminal offence. This is written down in article 279 of the Dutch Criminal Law. This article concerns the ‘withdrawal from authority’, The Appeal Court states that because of the seriousness of the criminal act, the think imprisonment is the only just punishment. Because it concerns a long periode of 11 years, which caused severe consequences for the mother and the children, the court decides imprisonment for a period 42 months is appropriate and commanded. The mother had asked the Appeal Court to grant her a claim for damages of 15.000 Euro’s. The Appeal Court decided that the mother has suffered immaterial damages as a result of the criminal act by the father and decided that the father has to pay her 15.000 Euro’s and her legal fees for this procedure.

This means that in a case of child abduction both parents need to get advice about the possible criminal procedure. It also means that once a parent takes that step to take the child without consent of the other custodial parent, there might be ‘no way back’, because of a possible criminal procedure. Whether or not the other parent will press charges, can be part of the negotiations between the parents, about the return of the child.