A NEW campaign highlighting a big rise in the number of children abducted and taken abroad by an estranged parent has been backed by Chamber members Ellis Jones Solicitors. A total of 512 cases involving 84 different countries were reported to British authorities in 2011/2012, according to data from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO). That compares with 272 in 51 countries in 2003/2004, an increase of 88 per cent in eight years.
It is illegal for a parent to take a child overseas without permission from others with parental responsibility. However 24 per cent of Britons are unaware it is a crime, according to separate FCO research. The research revealed that although 74 per cent of people thought fathers were most likely to abduct their children, statistics from the charity Reunite International suggested 70 per cent of their cases concerned mothers taking a child.
The FCO has now launched a national campaign to highlight the issue. Katie Taft, a solicitor with Ellis Jones who specialises in child abduction work, said the national increase in cases was borne out by her own experiences.
The Dorset and New Forest law firm is a member of the International Child Abduction and Contact Unit specialist panel and a recognised expert, regularly representing both mothers and fathers to secure the prompt return of their child or children.
Katie said: "We've seen an increased workload over the last few years which is to be expected given the rise in the number of families with parents who originate from different countries. Therefore, the latest FCO figures really come as no surprise. Currently we're handing a number of cases of this nature across the South of England. "Child abduction causes a huge amount of distress and we welcome the FCO's decision to launch a national campaign to highlight the issue.
"It's important that this subject is kept in the public spotlight and that parents think twice before causing significant distress to their children, and other members of the family, by even contemplating abducting a child," Katie added.
Parents, or those with parental responsibility, who fear their child has been or is at risk of being abducted can contact Katie or Sean McNally on 01202 636223. Alternatively the International Child Abduction and Contact Unit can be reached on 020 7911 7047/7045 from 10am to 4pm.