Tara Brown, 60 Minutes crew still face jail in Lebanon over abduction


June 3, 2016

Source: theaustralian.com.au

Tara Brown and her 60 Minutes colleagues will likely face the same criminal charges in Lebanon as child retrieval expert Adam Whittington and his team, which could include jail time.

Tara_Brown_Lebanon

According to News Corp, all those associated with the attempted child kidnapping in Beirut – whether they “organised, financed, were drivers or made the kidnapping” – would face up to three years in jail in Lebanon if convicted, as their files have been combined by Lebanese authorities.

A decision on the charges was expected to be made this week but has been delayed, reportedly because an investigation finalised by Judge Abdullah is now being reassessed alongside new information from Channel Nine’s internal inquiry into the kidnapping. The five-page report was released publicly last Friday, and includes concessions by the network that mistakes were made in relation to the kidnapping attempt.

Judge Abdullah will hand the report to the prosecutor in coming days, then it will be at least 10 days before the prosecutor makes a decision and sends the report back to the judge to announce a ruling.

If Brown, producer Stephen Rice, cameraman Ben Williamson and sound recordist David Ballment are handed a jail sentence they can be extradited to Lebanon, unless the Office of the Attorney-General uses discretionary power to spare them. These decisions are made on a case to case basis. Even with a lesser penalty it would impact on the group’s ability to work and travel internationally.

Adam-Whittington-Lebanon

Leaked emails obtained by News Corp yesterday reveal senior staff at 60 Minutes, including executive producer Kirsty Thomson, former executive producer and now Nine sports boss Tom Malone, and an in-house lawyer, were aware of the logistics of the planned kidnapping attempt as early as January, including the fact Adam Whittington and his child retrieval outfit CARI would be paid for their services.

 

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60 ‘stolen’ custody kids stuck overseas last year


April 25, 2016

Source: The Australian

Fewer than half of the 114 children taken from Australia during custody disputes in the past fin­ancial year have been returned, despite appropriate action having been taken under The Hague convention.

Figures from the Attorney-General’s Department show Brisbane mother Sally Faulkner’s case is one of many involving children removed from the country by one parent against the other’s will.

australian_kid_abducted

Of the 114 children removed from Australia, only 54 have been returned. A bill that would have criminalised the retention of children overseas in defiance of Family Court orders has been bouncing between parliament and the Senate’s legal and constitutional affairs committee for at least five years.

The Family Court can intervene only in cases pertaining to countries that are signatories to The Hague convention, which is why Lebanon — not a signatory — is often the country of choice for parents who want to flee. Such was the case with Ms Faulkner, whose children were taken to Lebanon by their Lebanese-American father, prompting Ms Faulkner to launch a botched counter-abduction with the assistance of the Nine Network’s 60 Minutes.

Foreign Prisoners Support Service director Martin Hodgson, who helped win journalist Peter Greste’s freedom in an Egyptian court case, said yesterday he had represented two Australian women whose husbands fled to Lebanon with their children. “Lebanon is a safe harbour for this issue (custody),” he said. “It’s much easier (for women) to get redress in Saudi on custody than it is in Lebanon.”

International parental child abduction has proven a difficult problem for Australian politicians since the issue first came before the Senate committee in August 2011. Debate about what to do has been going on for so long that five of the six senators who sat in on original committee hearings are no longer in parliament. The one who is — Michaelia Cash — was not available for comment yesterday on why reform had taken so long.

Mark Furner, who sat on the committee — he is now an MP in the Queensland parliament — said he still supported the new laws, which would have made it a crime for a parent not to return their child when ordered by the Family Court.

A spokesman for Attorney-General George Brandis said yesterday the government was “considering its recommen­dations and continues to consult with stakeholders”.

In the two weeks since the Faulkner case exploded, another two cases of parental abduction have come before the Family Court. In the first, a mother known only as Ms Padwa has been ordered to return her six-year-old daughter to the father, in The Netherlands. The child was born in The Netherlands, but raised partly in Indonesia. Her ­father is Dutch, her mother is ­Indonesian and the case came ­before the Australian Family Court only because the mother is now married to an Australian.

In a second case, the chief executive of an international company has been ordered to send his two sons back to Sydney from New York. The father, known in court documents as Mr Bondelmonte, flew the boys, aged 15 and 17, on a business-class trip to Manhattan in January, then wrote an email to his former wife saying they all wanted to stay.

The court heard the older boy was “estranged from his mother and, at his request, has not had any contact with her since the end of September 2013”. The court also saw emails from the younger boy saying he wanted to stay in New York because it’s “awesome”. The mother told the court she “struggled financially and could not compete with the largesse the children enjoyed with the father”.

The court found the father was “flouting the court’s order and even acting in a manner to challenge the court’s authority”.

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Two children abducted by gunmen on outskirts of Beirut


April 7, 2016

Source: annahar.com

BEIRUT: Four gunmen kidnapped Wednesday two children in Hadath, on the southern outskirts of Beirut, over an alleged family dispute, a source told Annahar.

kidnapped-children-Australia

The source said the children were abducted while they were waiting for their school bus along with their grandmother.

The gunmen, who were reportedly driving a silver Hyundai, abducted Lahala El Amine (6 years old) and her younger brother Noah El Amine (4 years old) struck the grandmother Ibtisam El Amine on the head with a gun, the source added.

According to the source, the children’s father Ali El Amine and his wife Sally Clafinger, an Australian national, fell into a dispute and got separated after El Amine agreed to pay a monthly alimony.

The source said El Amine later flew the children from Australia back to Lebanon with Clafinger’s knowledge. However, Clafinger started sending threatening emails and text messages after El Amine stopped paying alimony before secretly traveling to Lebanon, and delegating gunmen to conduct the kidnapping, the source said.

Preliminary investigations suggested that Clafinger may have received help from local accomplices.
Soon after, Clafinger contacted El Amine on his personal phone and informed him that the children are with her, the source said.

The source said El Amine immediately notified general security of the abduction amid concerns that Clafinger may fly the children back to Australia.

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Trini mom heading home with ‘abducted’ children


February 19, 2016

Source: Newsday

A TRINI mother is on her way home from Australia with her two young children after a High Court judge in Melbourne granted her custody and denied the children’s Australian-born father Adam Lacey, access to them.

The 39-year old Lacey was even ordered by the judge of the Melbourne Circuit court, not to make any physical contact with his children, not even via social network, when they (the children) arrive in Trinidad.

Adam-Lacey

One of the children, aged four, was born here and the other, aged two, was born in Australia. Lacey came to Trinidad from Australia in 2013 and married an Arima woman, who after the birth of their first child, a girl, took them to Australia to live with him. The court ruling brought the curtain down on a bitter custody battle fought by the 36-year-old mother over the past three years. She was publicly accused by Lacey of abducting their children in March 2014, from Melbourne and bringing them back to Trinidad to live. Newsday was told that since the ruling, delivered last week Monday, the Trini mother and her children have been placed under protection of the Australian border police, in order to ensure their safe return to Trinidad.

Abducted-Australia

Lacey left Australia and came to Trinidad to work with a cellular networker provider. He met and got married to an Arimian and not longer after their daughter was born, they all left for Australia as Lacey’s contract ended. In March 2014, the woman flew back to Trinidad with both children, unknown to her husband. Lacey, on learning of this, arrived in Trinidad and issued a public appeal for his wife to return his children. He also petitioned the Australian Embassy in Trinidad to intervene. The embassy issued a statement to the media which was aired on local television news channels, that they had offered the Australian father legal advice on how to pursue his claim for custody. In June 2015, the father filed an application under the Hague Convention, Civil Aspects of Child Abduction, on the ground that his two children were abducted in Australia.

The authorities in the Hague referred the matter to the Attorney General’s Office, Trinidad having been a signee to the Hague Convention on August 1, 2013, for the protection of children from abduction.

Also read: To recover an abducted child by force should always be the last solution

The Single Fathers Association led by Rhondell Feeles, also got involved and issued a public appeal on behalf of Lacey, for the mother to return the children to the father.

Proceedings were filed in the High Court, via the Attorney General’s Office, for a High Court judge to determine the issue of abduction.

Madam Justice Betsy-Ann Lambert Peterson, presiding in the Family Court, ordered the mother to return the children. That ruling was appealed by the mother who petitioned the Court of Appeal for a stay of execution of the Order, but Justice Paula Mae Weekes, however, refused the stay.

The mother did not give up her battle and she journeyed to Australia with the two children on November 16, 2015. Newsday learned that when she arrived there, an application in the Melbourne Circuit court to have the children placed on a watchlist, preventing them from leaving Australia, was listed for hearing. The children were immediately placed on a watchlist.

map-of-trinidad-and-tobago

The children were not be able to leave from any official port of entry, to return to Trindiad.

Also engaging the attention of the judge in Melbourne, was an application by Lacey for custody. The mother challenged the application and on Carnival Monday, a judge in the Federal Circuit Court in Melbourne, granted her full custody of the children, on a consent order.

According to the judge’s order, no visitation rights are to be granted to Lacey. Newsday learned yesterday that the mother has embarked on her journey to return with her children back to Trinidad.

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WA attacks United Nations decision over Poland custody case


February 8, 2016

Source: Perth Now

A LANDMARK United Nations decision has found WA authorities violated the human rights of a father and son who were torn apart by an international custody and child abduction dispute.

Parental-Abduction_Poland

But the UN Human Rights Committee’s ruling has dismayed one of WA’s top judges, who claims his court was not given the opportunity to provide information to the committee.

The UN upheld the complaint from a Polish-Australian father after his estranged wife took their son, then aged five, from Poland to WA in 2010 without his knowledge or consent. A Polish court had awarded the father sole custody.

The case is the first Australian family law matter to come before the UN committee, which ruled Australian authorities were guilty of an “arbitrary interference” in the father and son’s family life.

In a rare public statement on an individual case, Family Court of WA Chief Judge Stephen Thackray hit out at the UN, saying it relied on “misleading information”.

“If we had been asked, we would have been very pleased to assist the UN committee by ensuring that it had accurate information. Unfortunately, the information provided to the committee was quite misleading,” Judge Thackray said.

“It is particularly unfortunate that the committee did not appreciate that the complainant (father) had refused every opportunity offered to him to participate in the proceedings in the Family Court of WA.”

Whether Australian authorities respect or reject the UN’s views remains to be seen, as it is not enforceable here.

australian_embassy

The boy’s father argued that the Australian embassy in Warsaw helped his then-wife escape Poland, by getting their Polish-born son an emergency passport and drove them to the airport. The family had lived in Perth for three years before returning in 2009 to Poland, where the marriage crumbled.

His estranged spouse claimed she was the victim of domestic abuse — an accusation the father denies.

In 2011, a Family Court of WA judge ordered the boy be returned to Poland, but later that year the court’s full bench overturned that decision.

The court awarded sole parental responsibility to the mother in May 2014, with supervised access in Australia for the father.

The UN committee concluded Australia was obliged to provide an “effective remedy”, including ensuring regular contact between father and son, adequate compensation to the father and preventing similar violations in the future.

The 56-year-old father told The Sunday Times from Poland this week he would never give up fighting for his child and was hopeful Australia would accept the UN’s ruling.

He said he had had no contact with his son, now aged 11, since mid-2014.

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‘Help bring them home’: Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Justice Minister launch International Missing Children’s Day


May 20, 0215

Source: 9news.com.au

International Missing Children’s Day has been launched with the intention of helping to bring home abducted and missing children.

William Tyrell

Justice Minister Michael Keenan and Australian Federal Police (AFP) Commissioner Andrew Colvin have launched an International Missing Children’s Day campaign in Sydney today.

With the simple slogan ‘Help bring them home’, the focus of the launch held at Fairground Follies in St Peters was on children abducted by a parent.

Michael Watter’s twin daughters were taken by their mother just after he dropped them at school last year.

“Hearing the laughter of other children makes my throat tighten and my eyes sting.”

Thirteen-year-old Laura Veasey and her 11-year-old brother Harrison were also taken by their mother in 2013.

David Veasey said parental abduction should be treated as abuse.

“Because the children are with one of the parents it’s not looked as a crime,” Mr Veasey said.

“But, it certainly has the same consequences as if your children were abducted by some other unknown party.”

Harry Speath fears his ex-wife may have taken his son and daughter Serena and Thomas overseas.

“To some extent if feels like they’ve died but there’s no bodies to bury,” Mr Speath said.

The abductions highlighted today are just a fraction of the 400 cases the AFP deals with every year.

International Missing Children’s Day is on May 25 when people gather worldwide to commemorate the missing children who have returned home, remember victims of crime and continue to find those still missing.

The main purpose of the commemoration is to encourage everyone to spread the message of hope for those children still missing.

Two young people under the age of 18 are reported missing every hour in Australia.
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Every year in Australia, more than 650 children are abducted by a parent or family member


May 19, 2015

Source: www.news.com.au

‘I don’t understand why things have come to this’

David Veasey hasn’t seen his children in over two years

Parental Kidnapping

ACROSS the country, thousands of dads and their kids enjoy kicking a ball, going swimming, or hanging out on the couch with hugs and tickles.

But David Veasey can’t do any of those things with his two children, Harrison, 11, and Laura, 13. Instead, he wonders where they are and whether he’ll ever see them again. Veasey hasn’t had any contact with his children since they were abducted by their mother in April 2013.

“It’s terrible,” he says. “I don’t know why contact was cut off. There’s a sense of loss and confusion. I fear for their safety. I don’t understand why things have come to this.”

It might sound astonishing that one parent can simply vanish with their children and nothing can be done about it, but it’s actually surprisingly common. Every year in Australia, more than 650 children are abducted by a parent or family member. Australia has the highest rate per capita of international parental child abductions in the world; it’s estimated two or three children are taken illegally in or out of the country by a parent every single week.

Veasey, 49, a solicitor from NSW’s Southern Highlands, is still struggling to understand and cope with his situation. He and his ex-wife Jane had been separated “amicably” for around a year and shared a co-parenting order given by the Family Court. In 2013, Jane moved from Sydney to the Gold Coast with Harrison and Laura, and it was decided their dad would visit every second weekend. “The last time I saw Harrison, we went to the circus and the beach,” he says. “It was always emotional saying goodbye, but we had a great weekend.”

On the third weekend Veasey was meant to visit, he received a text message from Jane. “She said they were moving in to a new house and the children weren’t available,” he recalls. “That was the last contact I ever had with them. I had two mobile phone numbers for them. At first, when I called, [both] went to voicemail, then they were disconnected. The Skype connection and emails were cut off, too. There was no way to get in touch with them.”

Veasey went to the police, but because parental abduction isn’t considered a criminal matter, he was told he would have to go through the Family Court to get a court order to try to find the children before the police could help.

“I had to apply for a recovery order [stating the children must be returned to him] so I could have help trying to find them,” he says. “I have one now, but we still can’t track them down.”

Harrison and Laura are normal, happy children. “They are easygoing, fantastic kids,” says their dad. “They love going to the movies and Questacon [Canberra’s National Science and Technology Centre]. They loved Ice Age. Harrison was — and I presume still is — into trains. They’re both very talented country-and-western singers, and Laura has won a number of competitions at music festivals. She has a real flair for performing.”

Veasey worries about them constantly. “I fear for their emotional wellbeing,” he says. “They had a strong network of friends in Sydney. Laura did singing lessons and netball; Harrison played the drums and rugby. They’ve been uprooted and taken to an area where they have no friends.”

Before contact was cut off, Veasey learnt they were being homeschooled. Not only does that make it hard to track them down, but “opportunities of interaction with children their own age have been taken away from them,” he says. “It’s hard to think about.”

Understandably, he worries about the effect that being wrenched away from the lives they once knew might have on Harrison and Laura. “Parental child abduction can have harmful physical and emotional effects on the children abducted,” confirms National Missing Persons Coordination Centre team leader, Rebecca Kotz. “Abducted children suffer the alienation of losing contact with their family and friends, miss their educational stability and are often hidden away from people around them. They are removed from almost everything familiar to them, including their toys, daily routine, their bedroom — sometimes even their name.”

Veasey says one of his main concerns is what his children might have been told by their mother: “There’s a fear that they might form a view of me based on what they’re told rather than what they know.” Kotz confirms that’s a possibility. “Children can be lied to by the abducting parent. In extreme cases, they’re told that the family they’ve left behind doesn’t love them anymore. Because of the impact on children, family child abduction can be seen as a form of child abuse.”

Parent_Child_abduction

Children abducted by strangers often make international news headlines. Madeleine McCann’s name is known across the world, and the effects of her disappearance on her family have been widely discussed by the media, which regularly runs stories on how the family is coping. But just because Veasey knows who has taken his children doesn’t lessen the huge impact on his life. “I think the level of emotion and grieving would be the same,” he says.

It’s not only parents who grieve for abducted children. “My parents don’t hear from their grandchildren and that’s very difficult for them as well,” Veasey says. “Every Christmas, they buy the children presents and put them under the tree. They remain wrapped and just get put in another room when the tree is taken down. It’s so sad.”

Although Veasey says most of his family and friends have been supportive, he worries that, as the years pass, there’s an expectation that he should perhaps move on with his life. “Over time, people just don’t want to know about it,” he says. “They don’t want to ask you about it any more. One friend — well, I suppose he’s not really a friend now — told me I should just get on with things.

“I’m no longer invited to certain events by friends with children of similar ages. Then there are things that I might be invited to, but don’t feel comfortable going to without the children. The ripples it has through the community, your friends, people you thought you were close to who decide this is all too hard — suddenly everything falls apart.”

The destruction of the remaining parent’s life is often a desired outcome by the abducting parent, says Kotz. “There are a number of reasons why a parent may abduct a child,” she explains. “In most cases, it’s for revenge. The intent of depriving the child, or other parent, of a relationship and taking them away from everything they know is traumatic, for the child and those left behind.”

Veasey functions on a day-to-day basis by going to work and seeing friends, but he feels his life is on hold. “I can’t go on holiday — I worry that as soon as I’d get on a plane they’d be located,” he says. “I started seeing a wonderful lady who had two children, but it was just too hard being with them and not Harrison and Laura. It’s not easy to lock them away and not think about them.”

As desperate as Veasey is to see Harrison and Laura again, he says he’s also very aware that a reunion might not be easy. “I haven’t seen them for over two years now — how would we interact after that long? It’s very easy to magnify all the issues and worry about what might happen.”

Although neither Veasey nor the police have been able to track the children down, there have been some sightings of the youngsters at country-music festivals, and Veasey has even seen some recent photos of them performing on stage. “It’s partly reassuring,” he says. “I know they were there and safe. But, in other ways, it increases the sense of loss, knowing I’m not involved in their lives.”

It’s these sightings that keep Veasey hopeful that Harrison and Laura will be found and one day they’ll be together again.

“I have to take it one day at a time,” he says. “I do believe they’ll be located and that it’s just a matter of time. And when they turn 16 — which isn’t too far away for Laura — they’ll be able to seek me out on their own.”

Until then, Veasey’s message for his two children is simple: “I love them, miss them and am there for them,” he says. “I’m always thinking of them.”

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