The recently reported case of MB v GK  EWHC 1122 (Fam) demonstrates just how serious the consequences of non-compliance with an order of the court can be.
This was a child abduction case involving a child aged 21 months. The parties lived in London. The father was originally from Singapore. The parties agreed that whilst the mother finished her studies in London, the child would stay temporarily with the paternal grandparents in Singapore. The child was to return to London in January 2014, however when the time came, the father and his extended family kept the child in Singapore against the mother’s wishes. Behind the mother’s back, the father made without notice applications to the courts in Singapore. The mother returned to London and applied to the High Court for the return of her son.
The court found that the child was habitually resident in England and Wales and ordered the immediate return of the child to London by 4pm on 18 March 2014. A penal notice was attached to the order. The father refused to comply with the order and two subsequent orders were made, repeating the same action. The father was given ample opportunity by the court to comply with the orders but failed to do so.
The mother was left with no option but to apply for an order for the father to be committed to prison.
The court determined that the father was in contempt of court for the “flagrant and deliberate” breach of three orders of the court requiring him to return the child to England and Wales. Ms Justice Russell sentenced him on 3 April 2014 to a total term of imprisonment of 18 months – 6 months for the breach of the first order and two 12 month concurrent sentences for the breach of the second and third orders.
This case demonstrates how the courts are prepared to take a firm approach in cases involving breach of an order, while still giving the parent in breach a last chance where they can.