Immunity from care proceedings?

Should your status as a Diplomat allow you to harm your children without child protection agencies being able to intervene?

That was the question Mr. Justice Mostyn had to decide in the recent cases of A Local Authority v AG [2020] EWFC 18 & A Local Authority v AG (No. 2) [2020] EWHC 1346 (Fam)

Following allegations of very serious physical and emotional abuse of two of the family’s six children, the unidentified local authority issued applications for Emergency Protection Orders in the High Court. These are public law orders enabling a local authority to immediately intervene to place children in foster care or with another family member.

This was the first case in this country concerning a serving diplomat (as opposed to a former diplomat or a member of a mission’s staff) where the issue has had to be considered. Initially the learned judge directed the local authority to withdraw their emergency application due to the Father’s diplomatic immunity, however the Judge also strongly reprimanded both parents to restrain their use of physical chastisement.

Diplomatic immunity from prosecution is well known, however diplomatic immunity from child protection agencies has not been significantly tested in this country.

This case gives rise to a seemingly irreconcilable clash between two international treaties. These are the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, enacted by the Diplomatic Privileges Act 1964, and the 1953 European Convention on Human Rights, enacted by the Human Rights Act 1998.

In this case the parents were able to avoid care orders being made based on their diplomatic immunity, the proceedings could not proceed and had to be stayed.

The matter returned to court on a significant legal point raised by the children’s guardian as to a declaration under article three of the Human Rights Act.

Following the last hearing further allegations of serious physical abuse had been made by the elder children against their parents and four of the children had fled their parents home and sought political asylum.

By this time the parents had left the UK on a chartered flight with their two youngest children.

As a result, the youngest child that had fled (A) was made subject to a care order.

This goes to show that even in the most extreme circumstances and situations, diplomatic immunity, a practice which has existed since Roman times, will normally be upheld.

Our family law team have dealt with a multitude of complex public law cases involving an international element and would be happy to advise and assist you, please call 0203 219 0145 for more information or to book an appointment.

Contact Oliver Conway by email at oliver@oliverfisher.co.uk