A MIDDLE-CLASS law graduate who fled to Thailand with her children – to stop them being taken into care after she became a crack addict – has been freed from jail and told she might get her sons back.
The “bright” former Catholic school pupil, from Edinburgh, who cannot be named for legal reasons, graduated from the London School of Economics and was doing well as a lawyer, before falling prey to drug addiction, London’s Criminal Appeal Court heard.
She had left her childhood home, married and moved to Tower Hamlets, East London, when the two children were removed after a local authority became aware of her lifestyle and decided she and her husband were “unfit to be parents.”
It was whilst adoptive parents were being sought that they “abducted” the two boys and fled to Thailand early last year.
As a trained lawyer, the mother, now 29, knew that the Hague Convention – which enshrines the international ban on child abduction – would not be enforceable in Thailand.
She also knew that no extradition treaty existed that could be used to force the fugitive family back to Britain.
However, after seven months abroad, the parents made the “extraordinary” decision to voluntarily return to the UK. Their lawyers told the court they had decided a British upbringing was better for their sons, aged four and five, even if it meant facing jail.
The couple were each imprisoned for nine months in March, having pleaded guilty to taking the children out of the UK without consent.
Now Appeal Court judge, Lord Justice Jackson, has cut both their sentences to five months, allowing them to walk free. He said he was doing so because it was “in the interests of the children” that they be given a chance to be reunited with their parents.
Representing the couple, solicitor advocate Anthony Edwards, told the judge they are now both “clean of drugs” and “have made good progress in custody.”
Lord Justice Jackson said that parallel proceedings concerning the fate of the children are ongoing in the Family Division of the High Court.
A family judge will shortly have to decide whether the children should be returned to their parents.
Giving the couple a second chance, the appeal judge said: “If the existing prison sentences stand, we are concerned that the parents will not be available should the family judge be minded to make an order for residential assessment.
“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.
“We allow these appeals and reduce the sentences to five months,” the judge added.
Outside court, the couple’s solicitor Mr Edwards said: “She is a very bright woman who has ended up in this situation because of drugs.
“They are now both clean of drugs and hopefully this is the beginning of a process which will see them eventually get their children back.”