The dramatic saga between The Archers’ Helen and Rob Titchener has had fans of the ‘every day story of country folk’ glued to their radios for months for the next twist in their tumultuous relationship.
The storyline on long running BBC Radio 4 serial came to its final conclusion recently when Rob snatched the couple’s baby son from his estranged wife’s car and was only thwarted in his kidnap attempt by a fallen tree during a severe storm.
Olivia Jones, a member of our family team, looks at the law surrounding child abduction:
Although the phrase ‘child abduction’ sounds dramatic, it essentially means the unauthorised removal of a minor - a child under 18 - from the person with whom the child normally lives.
If you’re concerned that a child you care for may be abducted, you can apply for a Prohibited Steps Order under the Children Act 1989. An order of this nature stops a named person removing a child from your care without your permission.
If a child is taken without your consent, there are powers under Section 33 of the Family Law Act 1986 that can be used to make someone share information about where the child is. If they don’t, they could go to prison.
If you have a ‘live with’ Order (ie residence), Special Guardianship Order or an order for enforcement and a child is abducted, section 34 of the Family Law Act 1986 can be used to secure the child’s return.
But if you have none of these orders in place and a child is taken, you’ll need to take steps to get one or apply to the High Court for care and control of the child.
For example, the ‘live with’ order will say the child should live with one parent, so the other person must seek consent of the resident partner to take the child out of the jurisdiction.
If a child is taken overseas, the 1980 Hague Convention has procedures in place to ensure international co-operation for the safe return of a child. This only applies if the child is taken to a country that has joined the Hague Convention.