A mother and father convicted of abducting their three children despite a court order only hours earlier have avoided a prison sentence.
The Armagh parents – who cannot be named so as to protect the identity of the three children – were convicted of two counts of child abduction at Armagh Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday.
The court heard that on April 25, an interim court order was made at Newry family court stating that the couple’s three children be placed in the care of the Southern Health and Social Care Trust.
Part of this order stated that no person may remove the child from the United Kingdom without the written consent of every person with parental responsibility for the children.
This order was granted in the late afternoon and both parents were present at the court sitting.
The prosecution said: “It was believed they [the couple] were not happy with the ruling.”
After the court had finished, the parents travelled back to Armagh, to the defendant’s father’s house where two of their eldest children were being looked after by their grandparents. A younger child had already been taken across the border to their grandmother’s house prior to the court appearance.
When the defendants got to the house in Armagh following the court case, a social worker was present. There was an argument and the defendants forced the two children into a waiting car and drove them across the border to County Monaghan.
The parents then returned to Armagh where they were arrested for child abduction. They were taken to Dungannon police station where they were interviewed, admitting to taking the children across the border.
They stated they did not understand that they were not allowed to do this. They were then charged with the two counts of child abduction.
All three children were returned safely to the care of the Social Services with the assistance of Gardai.
A defence solicitor for the mother described it as “an unfortunate case where the feelings were running high in the aftermath of the family case”, adding, “she didn’t react in the proper way and she now accepts that”.
He described the journey across the border as a “short distance” to which District Judge Laura Ievers interjected: “It’s not lost on anyone that this is a different jurisdiction and they were returned by the guards.”
A defence solicitor for the father commented: “It’s very difficult for those subjected to those orders to assimilate it quickly and immediately understand the significance of such an order…they were slow to comprehend just the significance of the order…”
Addressing the mother, Judge Ievers, said: “[You] also called the social worker a f*****g bitch and took the children…to the relative’s house and you left them there. These children have been caused a great deal of distress obviously with the background to the family case, and the reasons that the interim care order was made in the first place, and then having to be returned home by a combination of the guards, Social Services and possibly the PSNI as well.”
The pair were handed a 12 month probation order.