Troubled Mother and Baby in Diplomatic Immunity Test Case

In a family case which raised novel issues in respect of diplomatic immunity, the High Court has ruled that it has power to decide the future of a troubled teenage mother and her baby despite her father’s inviolable status as a representative of a commonwealth country.

The mother lived with her father in that country’s high commission in London prior to her admission to a mental hospital as an inpatient. A local authority was concerned for her welfare and that of her five-month-old baby and placed them with foster carers.

The father enjoyed diplomatic immunity which extended to his daughter and possibly to his grandchild. In those circumstances an issue arose as to whether the Court had power to consider the council’s application for care orders and to make decisions in the mother’s and baby’s best interests.

In accepting jurisdiction, the Court noted that the mother was estranged from her father and that he viewed her as ‘persona non grata’. He had left the country, effectively abandoning her and his grandchild in Britain. The mother said that he had disowned her when she refused to have an abortion or to submit to an arranged marriage and had threatened to kill her baby.

The Court found that the father would not welcome his daughter or grandchild back into his home and that he posed a considerable risk to them. The mother and baby no longer formed part of his ‘household’ within the meaning of the Diplomatic Privileges Act 1964 and their immunity had therefore lapsed. In those circumstances, jurisdiction was conferred by the presence of the mother and baby presence in Britain.