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14 March 2013
Research conducted by Cardiff Law School shows that the efficiency of the system dealing with international child abduction to England and Wales may be under threat.
The 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is an international agreement which aims to ensure the return of an abducted child to the country where he or she usually lives. The Convention relies on children being returned quickly so that issues of residence and contact can be decided in the courts of their home country, causing minimum disruption to the child and acting as a deterrent to abduction.
Building on the findings of previous global surveys looking at the operation of the 1980 Convention, which revealed that applications are taking longer to conclude, the research study conducted by Professor Nigel Lowe and Victoria Stephens broke new ground by analysing each stage in the process for abduction cases to pinpoint the reasons for delay.
The study, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, revealed that the system is under pressure and highlighted the increase in the number of applications for the return of children taken to England and Wales. The research revealed that:
If action is not taken to maintain the current system then the time taken to conclude abduction cases may slip and abducted children will remain away from their home and left-behind family, for longer. Long delays may also have an impact on the proportion of children being returned as it is more likely that they will become settled in England and Wales. A declining performance in the way England and Wales deals with these applications could affect its international reputation as a model jurisdiction for dealing with child abduction cases.
Professor Nigel Lowe said: "The Hague Convention on Child Abduction is the best available international legal framework for dealing with these problems. Despite these findings the English system remains a model Convention Country. The concern of the research is that it should remain so."
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