Under the Child Abduction Act 1984, it is a criminal offence in Scotland for a person connected to a child under 16 to take or send the child out of the United Kingdom without consent if there is a court order in place dealing with the custody of the child or if there is an order prohibiting the removal of the child from the UK.
Even if there is no such order in place, the left-behind parent or other person with rights of custody can use civil law procedures to seek the return of the child or secure access rights.
Reunite, a charity that supports those who are the victims of child abduction, is concerned that a legal loophole, whereby a court order is necessary before the police could consider stopping another family member from removing the child from the family home, may mean that the statistics regarding such abductions may be higher than officially recognised.
South of the Border, however, authorities can prevent a minor from leaving the UK at the point of departure when they are alerted to a possible abduction. In Scotland, cases of child abduction are reported every year in which the child has been taken abroad without the permission of the other parent or guardian, leaving them distressed and anxious.
So until the law is tightened up, spare a thought at this time of year for the victims, who unfortunately may be both the child and the guardian who is missing a loved one.