Tag Archives: leaving the jurisdiction

Mums on the run: When you have tried everything else you have nothing else to lose

This is a post by Sarah Phillimore.

On April 4th BBC’s Woman’s Hour discussed the issue of mothers who repeatedly lose their children into the care system and the decision made by some to ‘flee’ the jurisdiction, sometimes with the financial and emotional support of an organised network of people.

This prompted some further discussion online. I have already written in some considerable detail about the issues that arise from this; see the posts set out in Further Reading below.

The conversation on line was very useful for clarifying some thoughts and questions about where we go from here.

A typical reaction to hearing the story of ‘Zara’ on the Woman’s Hour podcast was of shock and sadness. Why should any mother have to go through this? Just what is the scale of the problem and what can we do about it?

A number of parents asserted to me that ‘lots’ or ‘the majority’ of parents who left the UK ‘settled well’. I pressed them to help me understand what actual numbers informed this statement – and what happened to the minority who did not settle? The parents were not able to answer and seemed to find my questions an attack on their integrity and intelligence, which I did not understand. I was asking for the raw data that informed their confident assertions. After a few hours of such to and fro it became clear that no one knows the numbers. And that has been the primary issue that causes me concern about all of this.

One person provided screen shots of a group operating in Egypt which explained to parents

…. remember summer is blisteringly hot here. Not like a summer holiday. We want only mums who will fight to the end whatever the conditions to protect their child… medication to cope with withdrawal from drugs we can get… (winking face emoji)

Even that brief description suggests the risks to parents and children, many already vulnerable, are huge. Rather chillingly, one parent commented:

Genuine neglect, abuse and incapability cases never survive long… unless you can survive for 6 months with no income, don’t bother…

Those who offer money to send people out of the jurisdiction appear to undertake no risk assessment, keep no records and don’t record the progress abroad of the fleeing parents. We urgently need to understand the scale of the problem.  The ‘fight’ rhetoric is worrying and will obviously be appealing to desperate parents. As one commented via Twitter

And they wonder why we run when you have tried everything else – you have noting to lose

What is the scale of this problem?

One parent (who had left the jurisdiction and was now parenting her two youngest children, despite losing the older ones to the care system) suggested that about 50 parents ‘on average’ left the jurisdiction.  One parent wondered if a higher number of parents who already had dual nationality would leave the jurisdiction – but that, interestingly has not been my experience.

One person commented that the following three questions need to be asked

a) Why do parents flee

b) why do other countries not consider the same parents to be a danger to children?

c) what the hell is going on?

I think these are all essential questions to be answered. The problem is, that we need proper data in order to try and answer them.  I would like to know:

a) how many parents leave the jurisdiction each year to avoid care proceedings?

b) What countries do they go to

c) how many ‘do well’ and settle

d) those who don’t do well – what happens to them and their children?


Way forward

One parent suggested that I make a FOI to various LA to see how many port alerts they issued for parents. That could be useful information but it won’t answer my questions above. What does seem to be key here is getting more information about how other jurisdictions operate. Clare Fenton Glynn has done some useful work on this but I am not aware of much else that could help to answer the questions.

One parent suggested that the key difference was that no other jurisdiction recognises ‘risk of future harm’ in the way we do – I accept that this is a concept that causes many unease and which we investigated at #CPConf2018.

As one person commented:

… if process wasn’t adversarial from the outset there would be no need for mums to hit [social media] and look about fleeing… ban SWs from scaring mothers by saying ‘have any more, we’ll take that too”…

I would be grateful for any other suggestions about how we can collectively move forward to have sensible discussions about this. We need some hard data and we need to keep asking some hard questions. We need to know a lot more about how other countries operate. Although I do not have firm data, It cannot be right in 2019 that parents feel they have no choice but to uproot themselves from their own country and put themselves and their children at serious risk of harm.

Further reading

Mums on the run April 7th 2019 post by ‘Annie’ member of The Transparency Project and a mum who nearly ran.

Helping parents leave the jurisdiction – what happens when you don’t know the whole story, or you don’t care? August 2015 Child Protection Resource

Keep on Running September 2016 Child Protection Resource

Keep on Running Part II April 2018 Child Protection Resource.


Keep on Running Part II

On 12th April 2018 Mr Justice Francis gave judgment in the case of CFA (Ireland) v F [2018] EWHC 939 (Fam) (12 April 2018).

This is a case about parents ‘fleeing’ from the UK to Ireland in an attempt to avoid child protection proceedings here. I have written before about this phenomenon and the dangers it can pose to parents and children. See  ‘Helping Parents leave the Jurisdiction’ first published in September 2015 and ‘Mums on the Run’ first published in September 2016.

This current is case is another illustration of the futility of this strategy.

I would be interested to know who helped the parents in this case leave the jurisdiction and what interest or investigation – if any – they made into what is described as the ‘extremely complicated’ background of the mother.

If previous cases are any guide, they made none because they don’t see this as relevant – the only goal is to get parents out of the ‘clutches’ of the evil child snatchers. It seems that the issue of ‘mums on the run’ is gaining increasing prominence. The influence of certain individuals such as John Hemming and Ian Josephs in the continued encouragement of this often futile endeavour, needs to be taken much more seriously by all those charged with securing the welfare of children.

Josephs is quite clear that he gives money to parents without any check or even concern about what challenges and traumas they have faced which might impact on their ability to provide safe care for a child. The most notorious example of this is of course Marie Black – a convicted paedophile who Josephs helped travel to France before her trial and conviction.

I have commented over the years that it is going to take a child to die before anyone takes this seriously. I really hope I am wrong about that.


Facts of this case and the court’s decision

CFA involved a child F, who was born in late 2017 and at the time of the court hearings was living in foster care in Ireland. Her parents had travelled from the UK to Ireland when the mother was pregnant with F and another sibling was in the care of an English local authority. The issue was now which country should decide where F should live as she was growing up.

Article 15 of the Brussels II regulations sets out the procedure the courts need to follow when transferring these cases.

Article 15(1) provides:

“By way of exception, the courts of a Member State having jurisdiction as to the substance of the matter may, if they consider that a court of another Member State, with which the child has a particular connection, would be better placed to hear the case, or a specific part thereof, and where this is in the best interests of the child:

The matter had first come before Judge O’Leary in Ireland on 8 January 2018 and she granted the Article 15 request to transfer. The parents appealed and it came before HHJ Donnabháin on 6 February 2018 who confirmed that earlier decision. The matter then came before the English courts. In February 2018 MacDonald J agreed with the Irish courts.

MacDonald J allowed the mother and father the chance to argue about why this shouldn’t happen and the parents put their arguments in writing and appeared before Francis J. After some confusion about whether the parents were physically in Ireland and attempting to challenge decisions made there, the hearing got underway but required considerably more time than the hour which it had optimistically been allowed.

Francis J was clear that factual background of the parents ‘fleeing’ was not relevant to the decision he was now making and he didn’t hold it against the parents ‘as a black mark’. He recognised that the Irish judgments contained some very important information and he cited it at some length. He found that the Irish courts had give very clear reasons as to why F’s case should be transferred.

HHJ Donnabháin had found that F has ‘a UK nationality and identity.’ Further, the mother’s circumstances also raised concern. At para 5 he said:

This lady’s background [by which he means the mother] is extremely complicated and requires the fullest access to all the medical, psychiatric, and social work reports which exist. These reports can only be ultimately relied upon to be produced in the United Kingdom and they are of fundamental importance to informing any court decision regarding the child’s welfare.”

And at para 13 he said:

I should say that it is obvious to me from the background that I have read about this case that the mother is entitled to the court’s greatest sympathy and understanding for she has had, it is undoubtedly true, an extremely difficult, troubled, and traumatic time. I need say no more about that for the purposes of this judgment but it is important to her that she knows that it is acknowledged by me when giving this judgment.

Francis J reminded himself of the observations of the President of the Family Division in Re HJ (A Child) [2013] EWHC 1867 (Fam) which commented that transfer requests were effectively a ‘summary process’ – to go into the merits of the case in any great detail would risk protracted and costly battles as to which is the correct jurisdiction. So the transfer decision must be made swiftly and what really matters in this case is the decision that will be made in due course by the court deciding where F should live as she grows up.

The proposed transfer must be in the best interests of the child and Francis J found that the  Irish courts had already made that assessment and found the transfer would be positively beneficial.

The parents’ arguments against transfer

The parents argued they are settled in Ireland and want to be assessed there. However the Judge responded that transferring the case to England would not prevent the parents being assessed in what they say is now their home country and he did not see this as a determinative feature.

Of more importance was their argument that if F came to England that would make it more difficult for them to see her. However, the Judge commented that there was nothing to stop the local authority, if they obtained an interim care order for F, to allow her to stay in the interim care of her current foster carers in Ireland: ‘There is nothing particularly unusual about that. Indeed, Schedule 2 of the Children Act 1989 specifically provides for such placement’.

F’s guardian in Ireland made it clear shat F should not be moved in the interim and Francis J agreed.

…I am not saying that it would mean that there could not ever be a change of interim care, but it seems to me that a change of interim care is almost always to be avoided in these cases if the interim care is satisfactory. As far as I can see here, it is not just satisfactory but extremely good interim care that F is currently enjoying. However, there is no reason for me to think that the acceptance of a transfer request would alter the possibility of F continuing to be with her Irish foster carers.

The Judge however rejected the parents’ arguments that it would be contrary to F’s best interests to endure a short journey from Ireland to England and further comments that if F did end up living in England then the parents could be helped to travel to see her, at least in the short term.


He concluded at para 33:

I am completely satisfied that it is in F’s best interests for this case to be transferred to England. Moreover, the principles of comity require that I should have very considerable respect and regard for the Irish order, which I do, albeit that I am of course not bound to accept the request. However, having applied, I hope properly, the test which is set out in Article 15(5) and its interpretation by recent case law, I am completely satisfied that this court should accept the request and I now do so.

Further Reading

A case in August 2018 where an Advocate General of the European Court of Justice was highly critical of the actions of both the English and Irish authorities, who organised the removal of children from Ireland without the parents knowledge and without them having sight of the English LA’s application to enforce orders for removal.  See this post from The Transparency Project. 

The Irish courts  have also commented critically, as reported by the Irish Examiner:

Irish social workers must “stop immediately” the practice of acting in conjunction with their UK counterparts in seeking the return to Britain of children at the centre of care proceedings without the parents’ knowledge of that application, the Court of Appeal has said.

If it does not stop, social workers could face contempt of court proceedings, Mr Justice Gerard Hogan said. He also expressed the “deepest misgivings” about the conduct of Irish and English social workers in one such case.

However In Lincolnshire County Council v J.MCA & anor [2018] IEHC 514 (25 September 2018) the Irish court ordered the return to England of a child removed by her parents after the making of interim care orders; following mistaken advice from a McKenzie Friend in England that the father’s ‘parental rights’ permitted them to do this.

Part of the parents’ arguments against return was that their English lawyers had not ‘fought’ for them and the English courts had made the wrong decisions. The Irish court pointed out that the decisions so far of the English courts were interim decisions only. They said this about the parents’ challenge to the English court system at para 39 of the judgment:

…the respondents have in substance made an allegation that the English courts are unwilling to protect their rights or those of the child. This allegation has been made without any supporting expert evidence or any affidavit from the lawyers who represented the respondents in the English courts or any evidence other than the opinion of the respondents. I have no hesitation in rejecting the submission. The respondents were afforded legal representation before the English court; appropriate hearings were conducted; a doctor gave evidence and was cross-examined; future hearings were being planned; this was all done in a similar fashion to how adversarial proceedings are carried out in Ireland. Further, the interim arrangement was in my view a humane one, involving the child being placed with her grandmother and the respondents being permitted three access visits per week. There is no evidence at all to suggest that the English courts are unwilling to protect the child’s rights or those of the respondents. In reality all that is offered is the respondents’ personal view that the doctors and the court were wrong in their diagnosis and that they were being treated unfairly by the courts. They could have advanced their case vigorously if they had stayed for the full hearing; and it can be done on their behalf at any future hearing, with appropriate evidence …


‘Mums on the Run’ – Where do they go? How safe are they?

For some time now I have been talking about and worried about the network of people who help parents leave the country if they are facing care proceedings. I am not convinced they are motivated by wanting to help people. I think they are more interested in showing they can get one over the ‘system’.

I have written about this before, particularly about how worried I am about John Hemming and Ian Josephs – who has given money to Marie Black, a convicted paedophile. I discussed their activities in more detail here:  ‘Helping Parents Leave the Jurisdiction’.

John Hemming set up ‘Justice For Families’ [JFF]  an organisation that;

campaigns to improve the operation of the family courts (including the court of protection) in order to treat families with respect.

John Hemming has often advised people to leave the country as they won’t get a fair hearing here – see Panorama ‘I Want My Baby Back’ in January 2014. There was a post on his blog in July 2015 about ‘mums on the run’ but that blog post no longer exists. The URL reads ‘Gena-and-kerry-mums-on-run-in-france’ [URL is an acronym for Uniform Resource Locator and is a reference (an address) to a resource on the Internet.] There is a reference to it on the ‘Brummie.net’ site which confirms the name ‘Gena’. 

So I am going to assume that John Hemming knew about someone called Gena in 2015. I am also going to assume that John Hemming has been promoting Gena as a safe ‘host family’ in France for the ‘mums on the run’ as  I have seen Facebook messages from John Hemming to a parent saying:

‘Why not go to Gena’s?’ …’The advantage with Gena is she knows the system where she lives.’

EDIT – the link between John Hemming and Gena is beyond doubt. Also, he knew that she had reported her partner as aggressive. See this article from the Sunday Times in December 2015. 

Out of the frying pan and into the fire

I have recently been given some very disturbing information in copies of texts, emails and Facebook messages from three different parents who have had first hand experience of being ‘mums on the run’. All went to a house in France occupied by ‘Gena’ and her partner.  All were given the details by John Hemming and/or Ian Josephs.

The mothers speak of horrible conditions in the house. Of being physically and verbally abused and having money either taken from them or not given to them so they could not buy even nappies for their children. One mother had to call the French police; the French authorities are now apparently investigating Gena.

I am told that one of the mothers told John Hemming and Ian Josephs about what was going on.   I have seen a message to one parent from Tim Haines [one of the JFF Advisors] saying that JFF held a meeting and said they would no longer refer parents to Gena. I don’t know when the date of that meeting was or what actual discussions were had. It would be interesting to know.

Even more disturbing information came to light in September 2016. That Gena’s partner, who lives in the house with her, was found in court proceedings in the UK to pose a sexual risk to children. 3 children between the ages of 7-14 have made allegations that he sexually abused them.

Questions that need to be answered.

I am seriously worried about this.  I have challenged Ian Josephs many times about what information he got about the parents he helped to leave the country and whether or not he followed up their cases once they had left. He carries out no risk assessment and no follow up. He has already given money to one mother who went on to be convicted of really serious crimes of sexual abuse against children.

But now it seems the problem is even bigger and even more dangerous – not only do John Hemming and Ian Josephs have little interest in the backgrounds of the parents they help leave the country, these vulnerable mothers are being encouraged to go somewhere which is not safe. Not for them or their children.

I have for a long time now accused John Hemming of not caring much for the parents or children he claims to ‘help’. I have said that he is more interested in promoting his own agenda. If I am wrong about that, no doubt John Hemming could assist me understand his actions/motivations better, by answering the questions I set out below.

I hope that someone does not have to get seriously hurt or abused before people start taking this seriously.

  • When did JFF/John Hemming/Ian Josephs start sending parents to Gena’s house?
  • How much money has JFF/John Hemming/Ian Josephs paid to Gena?
  • If they have paid her money, what was that money for?
  • Is the source of that money donations from the public or is it privately funded by either/or John Hemming/Ian Josephs?
  • What checks/risk assessment did JFF/John Hemming/Ian Josephs/ carry out on Gena and those living in her house before advising other parents to go there?
  • When did they know that conditions at Gena’s home were not acceptable?
  • When did they know that mothers were complaining about physical and verbal abuse and having their money taken/not given?
  • When did they know that Gena was living with a man who poses a clear sexual risk to children?
  • Do JFF/John Hemming/Ian Josephs refer ‘mums on the run’ to any other people abroad? If so, what checks/risk assessment have they done regarding these other people?

If you are a parent who is thinking about leaving the country rather than face care proceedings PLEASE be careful. PLEASE be wary of people offering to ‘help’ you – they may not actually have your best interests at heart at all. PLEASE get some good advice from someone you trust.

There are some links here to organisations/people who may be able to help you.


EDIT – some screenshots to support information given above.

Further, link to video from BBC programme in Feb 2015 where Gena states she was hospitalised by her violent partner.


Mums on Run Screen shot 1


Mums on the Run screen shot 2

EDIT BBC programme 26th September 2016 – further interview with Gena. She takes 8 families a year. And she isn’t going to stop.