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The International Child Abduction and Contact Unit (‘ICACU’) would like to offer our thanks to reunite for giving us the opportunity to post information on their website about some of the work we do in addition to our main functions.

The ICACU is the Central Authority in England and Wales for the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (‘the Hague Convention’), for Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 (‘the Revised Brussels II Regulation’), and for the European Convention on Recognition and Enforcement of Decisions Concerning Custody of Children and on Restoration of Custody of Children (the European Convention).

We will update this space from time to time and hope that you will keep visiting as we seek to inform you of our activities and increase the awareness of the ICACU and the work it does.

Update on activities

2009 has been another busy year for ICACU.  We received 193 new cases of abductions into England and Wales and 214 cases of abductions out of England and Wales.  That is an increase of 10% from 2008.  We also saw a 64% increase in new cases brought under specific articles of the Revised Brussels II Regulation.

Update on Spain

There are a large number of abductions from the UK to Spain (generally over 20 a year).  In May 2005 officials from the Central Authority for England and Wales met with the Spanish Central Authority.  In June 2008, Lord Justice Thorpe, together with officials from the Central Authority met with the Spanish Central Authority for a follow up to the meeting in 2005.  This produced a frank and focussed exchange of views.  A number of practical conclusions and action points were drawn from the discussion which were implemented and it can be said they had a positive effect on subsequent cases.  To build on the success of the meeting, in 2008 a further meeting was held, this time in London in July 2009, between the 2 Central Authorities and the message was clear that both sides were experiencing greatly enhanced communication.  It is hoped that this collaboration will continue this year and Lord Justice Thorpe, together with officials from the Central Authority look forward to travelling to Madrid to meet with the Spanish Central Authority to continue to strengthen our collaboration.

Japan - International Parental Child Abduction Symposium in Tokyo

ICACU’s first involvement with regard to Japan and their interest in the 1980 Hague Convention dates back to 2005 when we met with the Japanese Embassy in London to provide information on the Hague Convention and the operation of the Central Authority.

It went quiet until December 2009 when we were approached again by the Japanese Embassy in London. They asked for another meeting to discuss the operation of the Convention and this meeting was much more focused than the previous meeting in that the questions focused specifically on enforcement of return orders and about the general public’s perception of the Convention and the reaction to UK Nationals being returned to countries overseas as a result of a High Court order for return.

The Symposium took place in March 2010 and was entitled "Demystifying the Hague".  It was organised by the Canadian Embassy along with UK, US, French, Spanish, New Zealand, Australian, and Italian Embassies in Tokyo.  The intention was that this would be an opportunity for the Japanese to share any concerns they have regarding the Hague Convention with a variety of experts from countries where the Convention is already in operation.

It was agreed that each country would provide experts to talk about the implementation of the Convention in their respective countries and a representative from the ICACU was asked to attend and provide a speaker.  There were presentations and question and answer sessions and there was a lot of interest from the Japanese in the UK system.

The symposium was very worthwhile and was a definite success in terms of the amount of information that was provided to the people who attended and the amount of engagement there was with the audience during the sessions.

Since returning, the ICACU has maintained contact with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo as well as the Japanese Embassy in London.  We are continuing to offer our  help with any questions or queries regarding the Convention and the operation of the Central Authority.

Other events

The ICACU have attended 2 meetings of the European Judicial Network to discuss the operation of the Revised Brussels II Regulation.  One meeting was in Prague in June 2009 and the second meeting was in Brussels in March 2010.  The meeting in March introduced a new element in that the different member states were able to arrange bilateral meetings with each other to discuss specific cases or problems.  The bilateral meetings were extremely useful because we were able to have focused discussions with other member states and we were able to resolve or make progress on a number of issues. 

We were involved in a number of presentations over the last year with the aim of spreading awareness about the work we do. 

4Paper Buildings, a leading child abduction chambers, asked ICACU to provide a speaker at a seminar in November 2009 for solicitors and barristers.  The ICACU representative gave a presentation on “Rights of custody” and the forthcoming 1996 Hague Convention. 

The Canadian Embassy also asked ICACU to provide a speaker at a meeting in March 2010 for their Embassy staff.  The ICACU representative gave a presentation on the role of the Central Authority within Hague Proceedings.

These events give ICACU an opportunity to inform practitioners and stakeholders from other countries about our service and help influence the way in which they approach our cases. They also enable us to find out about issues or problems which we may not hear about in our day to day work.

We also attended the reunite Balloon Launch on December 2009.  This is an occasion we always attend and we were again available to discuss cases with any parents who were present.  We welcome the opportunity to talk about cases in more depth than time allows us on the telephone and parents and case workers find it helpful to meet each other as it enables us all to put names to faces.  It is also a useful reminder for both parents and case workers that there is a real person on the other end of the phone.

You can find out more about the work of the ICACU on our website http://www.officialsolicitor.gov.uk/os/icacu.htm or please feel free to contact us on our General Enquiry numbers 020 7911 7045/7047.