On 21 June 2012, I posted a link to an article I had written entitled "Social Media and the Voice of the Child in Hague Convention Applications". The article looked at the use of Facebook in proceedings which related to four sisters who were resident in Italy and who went with their mother to Australia for what their father thought was a four week holiday. The mother did not return with the children and the father issued proceedings for their return under the Hague Convention on Child Abduction. The sisters, who claimed they wanted to stay in Australia with their mother, were adamant that their views had not been taken into account when the first application was heard last year. The Facebook page, entitled Kids Without Voices, was part of their campaign to remain in Australia.
The sisters' mother, and her family, used every possible tactic to try and keep the girls from being returned to Italy including talking to the media, taking the girls into hiding (which attracted further media attention) and challenging the order to return the girls on a constitutional basis as the girls had not been not given separate legal representation.
All this meant that a significant amount of time had passed since the original order had been made and so Justice Forrest, who made the original order, agreed to a further hearing to determine if there were any exceptional circumstances that would justify the discharge of the order and allow the girls to remain in Australia with their mother. The hearing was held last week and Justice Forrest released the decision today refusing to allow the mother's appeal and ordering that the girls be returned, against their wishes, to Italy. He held that the children's wishes and the lapse in time since the original order were not significant enough to override the operation of international law.
A link to the original article is here, which includes a more detailed summary of the case and the law, and an update on today's decision can be found here.