Jun 21

Polish woman appeals for help to find son missing with estranged husband


Judge gives Leyla Dad permission to write open letter to six-year-old Mani, who vanished from home in Kielce, Poland, and is thought to be with his British father

21st June 2015


Judge gives Leyla Dad permission to write open letter to six-year-old Mani, who vanished from home in Kielce, Poland, and is thought to be with his British father

A Polish woman whose six-year-old son has gone missing with her estranged husband has written the boy an emotional open letter telling him: “I love you from the moon and back.”

Leyla Dad, 33, has launched proceedings in the family division of the high court in a bid to trace her son Mani.

Dad also issued a public plea, writing: “Please help me find my baby boy.”

Solicitors representing Dad said the child disappeared in January from his home in Kielce, Poland. They said the boy was thought to be in the UK with his British father, Zayn Dean, 47, who is also known as Dholtana Dad.

In the emotional letter, Leyla Dad writes: “Please, please do not worry baby, I promise I will see you very soon.”

“I promise we will be together again soon my baby. I love you from the moon and back and all the universe too.”

She adds: “When you are older I can explain this all to you, and you will know that I would never ever, ever want to be separated from you. This is killing me.”

She then appeals to the public, writing: “Please, please can anyone out there who reads this please help me find my baby boy.”

The letter ends with: “Mani I love you so much and I miss you every second of every day. I promise you will never be away from me ever again. I am, and will be, with you always.”

A judge has given the legal team permission to disclose details of the case in the hope that members of the public can help find the child. Mr Justice Bodey gave permission after analysing the case at a private hearing in the family division of the high court.

Details of the case were first released last week in a statement from lawyers – including solicitors Anne-Marie Hutchinson and Katherine Res Pritchard of Dawson Cornwell, and barrister Mehvish Chaudhry – who are representing Leyla Dad.

A photo of the mother and son show them sitting and enjoying ice-creams on a summer’s day.

Leyla Dad and Zayn Dean married in England in 2008 and then moved to Poland in 2013.

A year later the father returned to England while Mani stayed with his mother in Poland.

Dad had agreed that her estranged husband could take Mani on a short trip to Warsaw in January 2015, and Dad had kept Mani’s British and Polish passports, lawyers said.

“The mother spoke to Mani on January 5 2015 and the father was due to return Mani to his mother’s care on Tuesday January 6,’’ said the statement.

Instead, she received an email from the father telling her that he and Mani were on their way to the UK via Germany, lawyers said.

Zayn Dean told his estranged wife that he had obtained temporary travel documents for both her and Mani.

However, it is still not known how or if travel documents were obtained for Mani enabling the father to remove him from Poland to the UK.

Lawyers said Dean had family links to Bedford and Kettering in Northamptonshire, and added that he was a businessman involved in property.

“This is a desperately sad case involving the removal of a very young child from his home in Poland and separated from his mother who has been his primary carer from birth,” Dad’s lawyers said in statement.

Father and son had not been seen or located since January, lawyers said, adding the child had been “wrongfully removed’’ from Poland.

Dad has begun legal proceedings under the terms of the 1980 Hague convention on civil aspects of international child abduction, her lawyers confirmed.

‘You are always with me’: Letter from Leyla Dad to her missing six-year-old son


Dear Mani

Please, please do not worry baby I promise I will see you very soon.

I miss you so much I am dying to see you but I don’t know where you are. You are my baby and I don’t know where you are.

I know that we will see each other again soon, and when you are older I can explain this all to you, and you will know that I would never ever, ever want to be separated from you. This is killing me.

You are always with me, you’ve always been with me, you are always in my heart and you always will be.

When I see you I will squeeze you so tight and never let you go.

When we are back together everything can go back to normal and I promise you that you will be safe and nothing will ever change that.

You probably don’t know what’s happening and I wish you were here so I could make you feel better.

Please, please do not worry. I know it has been a long time since I saw you but I love you so much and you are in my heart and in my thoughts every second of every day.

I promise we will be together again soon my baby.

I love you from the moon and back and all the universe too.

I hope and pray every day that anyone out there who sees this letter and sees your photo and sees your father’s photo that they report it as soon as possible so that we can be together again and be together forever.

Please, please can anyone out there who reads this please help me find my baby boy.

Mani I love you so much and I miss you every second of every day. I promise you will never be away from me ever again. I am, and will be, with you always.

Your Mama.


SOURCE: The Guardian



Permanent link to this article: http://operationfatherhood.org/family-law-private/cross-border/polish-woman-appeals-for-help-to-find-son-missing-with-estranged-husband/

Dec 10

WALES/ENGLAND – Minister tells judges to keep out of legal aid disputes

Courts should not intervene in funding disputes where a litigant has already been denied legal aid, the justice minister has said.

Shailesh Vara

Shailesh Vara (pictured) told a committee of MPs this morning that judges should accept the presence of litigants in person and work with them.

His statement was in response to a question during an evidence session of the House of Commons justice committee.

Vara was asked for his opinion on a case handled by Sir James Munby, president of the Family Division, in which the judge said the state must find a way of funding a litigant being taken to court by the state, either through court funds or legal aid.

Munby accused the government of ‘washing its hands’ of the problem.

Vara said he took on board Munby’s comments and that the Ministry of Justice is working with the judiciary to sort out problems associated with litigants in person.

But the minister pointed out that the proportion of family cases where at least one person is unrepresented was 66% before legal aid cuts and has risen only to 74%. Furthermore, courts and judges have enough experience to deal with self-represented people, he suggested.

‘The courts have always managed in difficult circumstances. That is the nature of the courts’ and judges’ job so whatever the circumstances they make sure justice is done. If that means a LiP they have to deal with it – we take the view there are rules by which we are guided.’

Vara was questioned on the evidence given by MoJ permanent secretary Ursula Brennan to the House of Commons public accounts committee last week, in which she suggested that decisions were taken about legal aid reforms without research into the impact.

‘There is a reality that we had to take very urgent action,’ responded the minister.

‘It would have been – in an ideal world – perfect to have a two-year research programme talking to all stakeholders and coming to a decision. Sadly the economic position didn’t allow that luxury.’

Permanent link to this article: http://operationfatherhood.org/legal-aid/walesengland-minister-tells-judges-to-keep-out-of-legal-aid-disputes/

Jun 23

UK – Stay-at-home mothers facing child custody battles without legal representation

Mothers have borne the brunt of the impact of cuts in legal representation in family court cases, figures court show



In-laws blamed for one in 10 divorces
Mothers have borne the brunt of the impact of legal aid cuts 

The number of mothers facing court battles over access to their own children without a lawyer has jumped by two thirds since the Coalition legal aid reforms, new figures show.

Stay-at-home mothers or those working part-time to combine a career with childcare have been hit hardest by the decision to remove access to legal aid in most family law cases, the Ministry of Justice figures signal.

In the first nine months after the changes were implemented in April last year, the number of women representing themselves in court in child contact and custody cases in England and Wales surged by well over than 10,000.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of information Act by LawyerSupportedMediation.com, a mediation service, found that 27,017 women involved in applications involving children between April and December 2013 were listed as “unrepresented” – up from 16,458 in the same period the previous year.

It means that the number of mothers facing custody or contact battles without legal representation has overtaken the number of fathers for the first time. In the same period 22,949 fathers had to represent themselves, up from 17,291 in the same period in 2012.

Historically more women than men qualified for legal aid because of lower incomes.

But last year six out of 10 mothers involved in such cases had no legal representation, the reverse of the situation before the cuts.

Marc Lopatin, founder of LawyerSupportedMediation.com, said: “The huge rise in the number of women representing themselves implies a great many cannot afford a divorce lawyer to represent them.

“Some will be full-time mums without a wage at all, while others will be working part-time earning a modest income.”

Sarah Thompson, a principal lawyer at the law firm Slater & Gordon said: “Getting caught up in the court process can be incredibly hard on both parents.

“Often people find that decisions go against them because they’ve not been able to refer the judge to the relevant legal points of their case.

“They can end up getting emotional and not representing their cause in the best possible way.”


SOURCE: Telegraph

Permanent link to this article: http://operationfatherhood.org/legal-aid/uk-stay-at-home-mothers-facing-child-custody-battles-without-legal-representation/

Jun 23

ENGLAND – Thousands of mothers have multiple babies removed

Thousands of mothers over the past seven years have had successive children removed by family courts in England, the BBC has learned.


A sleeping baby One case saw two judges remove 15 successive babies from the same mother

Court records for that period show 7,143 mothers were involved in repeat care cases – affecting 22,790 children.

Researchers found children were taken away from their parents by local authorities in more than 90% of cases.

The research was carried out by the Universities of Brunel and Manchester and funded by the Nuffield Foundation.

This is the first time such data has been produced.

It backs up what judges have observed in their own courts for many years – that many mothers are stuck in a destructive cycle of pregnancies and care proceedings.

The courts remove a young child or baby from a mother, owing to abuse or neglect, only to see the same mother return to court a year or two later, with a new baby, and unable to care for that one either. Most misuse drink or drugs – or both.

Nicholas Crichton recently retired after many years as a judge in the family court.

He said: “The work of the family courts for years has been removing the second, the third, the fourth child from the same mother. Not infrequently the sixth, the seventh, the eight.

“In one case I’ve removed the 14th and I know two judges that have removed the 15th child from the same mother.”

According to the research, half the women involved are 24 or below at the time of the first care application, with the youngest being 14. Their babies are often removed quickly, at birth or soon afterwards.

Dr Karen Broadhurst of the University of Manchester, lead author of the research, told the BBC that “in approximately 42% of cases, infants were subject to care proceedings within a month of their birth, which is an important finding”.


Pregnant woman The research indicates that mothers in repeat care proceedings tend to be young

“We know that in 70% of cases infants were subject to proceedings within the first year of their life, which obviously leaves the mother with very little time to turn her life around.”

She also said the gaps between care proceedings were short for these mothers.

“We think there is an average of 17 months between the first time a mum appears in court with an infant and the second time she appears in court with another infant.

“It suggests to us there’s a very short interval between pregnancies, which gives mums very little time to engage in their own rehab.”

Pioneering approach

Dr Broadhurst argued that the research demonstrates the need for family courts to change their approach, to help these women change their behaviour.

“We also need to get better at ensuring those young parents can access the treatment that’s recommended within the family court.”

One pioneering new approach is that of the Strengthening Families Project, funded by Salford Council.

A community midwife, Wendy Warrington, and a specialist social worker, Elly Siddall, run workshops for pregnant women who risk losing their new baby, because they or their partner have already had at least one child taken into care.

Their approach is direct and hard-hitting. One Thursday afternoon, in a health centre in Eccles, Ms Warrington told a group of mothers-to-be about the side effects of drinking during pregnancy.

“They’re born early, there’s an increased risk of stillbirth,” she said, pulling up graphic images on her whiteboard. “There’s definitely abnormal brain development. Risk of loss of limbs, fingers, toes.”

The women were visibly shocked. More disturbing images followed, of babies damaged by drug-taking mothers. One woman broke down in tears, worried she had already hurt her child through drinking.

The project has been running for two-and-a-half years and early results are promising. More mothers are succeeding in keeping their babies at home. For Salford Council, that is money saved – foster care is expensive. For the mothers who keep their babies, it is a new chance.

One young woman, in her early 20s, whose two eldest children had been adopted as babies, said: “It was just a mess. I had two children taken into care, though not of my own fault, through my past partner, my oldest little girl’s dad. He battered her when she was three-and-a-half months old.”

She became pregnant again – and the new baby was taken away from the hospital very soon after birth by Salford Children’s Services. She was devastated, suffered from postnatal depression, and missed her two babies.

Like many women in this situation, she wanted to have another child as soon as possible. For her third pregnancy, however, she came to the Strengthening Families project.

She found it supportive and honest, saying: “They will tell you straight and that is what people need.”


Community midwife Wendy Warrington Community midwife Wendy Warrington runs workshops for the Strengthening Families Project

Ms Warrington and Ms Siddall also provide informal support to the mothers in the project, regularly calling them, sometimes visiting at home, to make sure they’re looking after themselves and their unborn child. The team help write reports for the Family Court.

‘Immense’ cost

This project has been going for two-and-a-half years, whereas the pioneering Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) set up by Mr Crichton in central London has been running since 2008.

Last month the Nuffield Foundation found FDAC had helped 35% of mothers become reunited with their children, compared with 19% in the ordinary family courts.

The FDAC has its own team of experts, doctors, therapists and expert social workers from the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust and the children’s charity Coram.

Most parents in care cases have problems with drugs or alcohol. The FDAC’s team helps them kick their addictions and, like the Strengthening Families Project, teaches them how to be better parents.

It is funded by London local authorities who, like Salford, recognised the benefits to their budgets of keeping children out of care, even though the cost of this court is higher than that of the ordinary family court.

One other FDAC has been opened in Gloucester, another is planned, but so far expansion has been slow.

This spring the president of the family court, Sir James Munby, praised the court and said: “FDAC is – it must be – a vital component in the new family court.” He has said there should be an FDAC in every family court in England.

Nicholas Crichton believes the new research underlines the need for the expansion of projects which help parents break the destructive cycle.

“The emotional cost to those families, and to their children, is immense but the financial cost to the taxpayer is immense as well and we really have to find a different way of dealing with these cases.”

Sanchia Berg’s report will be on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 on Monday 23 June.

Are you, or is someone you know, affected by the issues in this story? You can email your experiences to Haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk using the subject Care Cases.



Permanent link to this article: http://operationfatherhood.org/family-law-public/care-proceedings/england-thousands-of-mothers-have-multiple-babies-removed/

Jun 09

UK – Britain’s missing babies: How thousands of children have disappeared from council care in the last two years – and one infant still can’t be found

  • Almost 5,000 children  – including babies – disappeared from council care
  • 19 babies have vanished for months at a time, the figures reveal
  • The statistics, unveiled under FOI, have been called ‘alarming’ by NSPCC


Almost 5,000 children  – including babies – have disappeared from council care in the past two years, new figures have revealed.

Nineteen babies have vanished for months at a time, and one infant – just a few months old – has still not been found two years later.

The figures have been unveiled under a freedom of information request.

Almost 5,000 children - including babies - have disappeared from council care in the past two years, new figures have revealed (stock picture)Almost 5,000 children – including babies – have disappeared from council care in the past two years, new figures have revealed (stock picture)

They show that 4,852 looked-after children were reported missing between January 2012 and December 2013, the Sunday Times reports. 

There were 24,320 cases logged – as many disappeared more than once. The large majority were teenagers but dozens of those who disappeared were between four and nine years old. 

The number includes a one-year-old girl missing since July 2013.

Kent County Council reported the most children missing – with 458 children disappearing on 2,623 occasions.

Peter Oakford, Kent County Council cabinet member for specialist children’s services, said: ‘It is always a huge concern when children and young people go missing, even if just for a few hours.

‘In Kent, we face particular issues due to being a port authority and receive the highest number of unaccompanied minors in the UK. 

‘When unaccompanied asylum seeker children arrive from abroad, we don’t know what sort of ordeals they have gone through on their journey. They are scared and many have been told by traffickers to run away and meet contacts when they arrive in England.’

Kent County Council reported the most children missing - with 458 children disappearing on 2,623 occasions

Kent County Council reported the most children missing – with 458 children disappearing on 2,623 occasions

‘Children in care are vulnerable and KCC offers them all the support and care they need but they are not locked up.  When a child goes missing, we work closely with the police to find the child but we also need the government and other authorities to help us to address these wider issues including breaking down international trafficking networks which can lead to vulnerable children going missing.

The second highest number was in Nottinghamshire where 215 children disappeared.

In Hertfordshire there were 209 missing children.

Tom Rahilly, head of strategy for looked-after children at the NSPCC, told the paper: ‘When children and young people in care go missing it should be no different to when any other child disappears from home. This is very alarming.’

He said children may disappear because the parent decides to remove them without going through the proper channels, and often teenage mothers in care decide to leave with their child.

The Department for Education said it had improved guidance to councils regarding children missing from care.


SOURCE: Daily Mail

Permanent link to this article: http://operationfatherhood.org/family-law-public/children-in-care/uk-britains-missing-babies-how-thousands-of-children-have-disappeared-from-council-care-in-the-last-two-years-and-one-infant-still-cant-be-found/

Jun 09

WALES/ENGLAND – Top family judge adjourns father’s contact case amid legal aid impasse

Sir James Munby calls for justice secretary’s intervention amid concerns that man’s lack of legal aid could disadvantage child


A father and son
The judge said there was a risk that, if the process of deciding on a man’s contact with his son was not fair to one parent, that unfairness might ultimately disadvantage the child. Image posed by models. Photograph: Amana images/Alamy

The most senior family judge in England and Wales has asked the justice secretary, Chris Grayling, to explain how a case involving a father’s contact with his son can proceed without legal aid.

In a judgment that in effect challenges the Ministry of Justice’s policy of removing public funding for most matrimonial and separation hearings, Sir James Munby has had to adjourn a case because he has reached a legal dead end.

The decision, made last month but only published on Monday, comes shortly after a serious fraud case collapsed owing to cuts in legal aid; the court of appeal subsequently reinstated the trial.

Restrictions imposed by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 have resulted in the family courts being inundated by unrepresented claimants because legal aid is no longer available for their claims.

In a family case identified only as Q v Q, the lack of legal aid for a convicted sex offender who wants to maintain contact with his son has emerged as a crucial factor preventing the court delivering a fair hearing. The unrepresented man speaks little English and requires an interpreter.

After considering submissions, the president of the family division indicated that for justice to be delivered the father may need to be represented and possibly call expert witnesses. Munby said precedents from the European court of human rights showed “that there could be circumstances in which, without the assistance of a legally qualified representative, a litigant might be denied [their right to a fair hearing].

“The question then is what is to be done because, on one view, we have … reached an impasse, which is unthinkable. This case raises, in quite an acute form, a problem which is increasingly troubling judges sitting in the family court at all levels.”

Either the mother, who is publicly funded, or the court itself might have to pay, he suggested, “in order to ensure a just and fair hearing”.

He continued: “It seems to me that these are matters which are required to be investigated in justice not merely to the father, but I emphasise equally importantly to the son, as well as in the wider public interest of other litigants in a similar situation to that of the father here … there is the risk that, if one has a process which is not fair to one of the parents, that unfairness may in the final analysis rebound to the disadvantage of the child.”

Munby concluded: “I propose to adjourn this matter for … a short time, inviting the Ministry of Justice – or it may be the secretary of state for justice or it might be the minister for the courts and legal aid – to intervene in the proceedings.”

Their submissions, he suggested, should address who should pay if funding for legal representation for the father is necessary.

The ministry has defended successive cuts, arguing that the legal aid system in England and Wales costs £2bn a year and is one of the most expensive in the world.

This article was amended on 9 June 2014. The word “custody” was changed to “contact” in the headline and first paragraph to better reflect the circumstances of this case


SOURCE: The Guardian

Permanent link to this article: http://operationfatherhood.org/family-law-private/walesengland-top-family-judge-adjourns-fathers-contact-case-amid-legal-aid-impasse/

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