In a bitter illustration of the impact that drugs can have on family life, a successful lawyer who removed her children from care and fled with them to Thailand after she became addicted to crack cocaine has been freed from prison by the Court of Appeal.
The Court reduced her sentence, along with that of her partner, after ruling that their continued imprisonment was not in the best interests of their young sons and so that they could play a full part in forthcoming family proceedings at which decisions would be made in respect of the boys’ future care.
The married mother had graduated from the London School of Economics and was doing well as a lawyer before falling prey to drug addiction. The boys had been removed from the couple’s care after a local authority became aware of their lifestyle and decided that they were ‘unfit to be parents’.
The couple continued to have contact with their sons whilst an adoptive placement was sought for them and took advantage of an opportunity to abduct them to Thailand. As a lawyer, the mother knew that Thailand did not have an extradition treaty with the UK, nor was it a signatory to the Hague Convention, which enshrines the international ban on child abduction.
However, the parents later returned voluntarily to Britain in the belief that their sons would receive a better upbringing in this country. They subsequently pleaded guilty to removing the children from care without authority and were jailed for nine months.
In reducing their sentences to five months – thus enabling their immediate release – the Court noted arguments that the parents were now free from drugs and had exhibited their commitment to their children by their voluntary return to Britain in the knowledge that they would be prosecuted and punished.
Parallel proceedings were on foot in the Family Division of the High Court and it was important that the couple should be free and available if a residential assessment of their parenting abilities were ordered. The Court concluded, “We do not think that, at this stage, it would be in the interests of the children to make any order which would foreclose that opportunity.” The parents’ lawyers later expressed the hope that their children would ultimately be returned to their care.