A NEW law that would make it illegal for a parent to wrongfully retain a child in another country has moved a step closer.
The proposal is backed by city MP Mark Lancaster, who is championing the cause of left behind parent Ken Spooner.
Mr Spooner, who is the subject of this newspaper’s Justice for Ken campaign, allowed his former partner Zanetta Nyendwa to take their two boys, Devlan and Carlan, on a holiday to the African country to see their grandmother in October 2008.
But despite promising to return, Miss Nyendwa remained in Zambia with the children – leaving Mr Spooner to contest a drawn out legal battle to bring them home.
The proposed change was first raised in February as a topic of discussion for a number of top barristers, who looked into it on behalf of international parental child abduction charity, Reunite.
A change in the law could have meant Mr Spooner was able to bring Devlan and Caelan home much earlier.
Because Mr Spooner had given consent for the holiday the case is being treated as a civil dispute. If Miss Nyendwa had taken the children without that consent it would have been classed as a criminal case.
The move follows the decision of the Australian government to criminalise wrongful retention.
It will now be discussed in Westminster in July by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Child Abduction.
After that barristers will meet with MPs to further analyse the proposals.
Mr Lancaster said: “I have been working to help Ken have his children returned from Zambia for many years now. It was clear to me through the difficulties he has faced and the many other cases of wrongful retention that I have dealt with, that there is a loophole in current legislation.
“I am delighted that Reunite International have decided to support me in my quest to close the loophole and push for wrongful retention to be classed as a criminal act rather than civil. I am looking forward to working with them closely over the coming months and hope this will stop cases like Ken’s happening in the future.”
And Mr Spooner welcomed the move as ‘a step forward in the protection of children’.
He added: “Once this legislation is in place it will ensure a swift return of countless children.
“Whenever there is a loophole in the law allowing selfish individuals to take advantage it needs to be closed.”
And he said he believed his children would already have been returned home if the law had previously been in place.
“It would have allowed the extradition of Zanetta to face charges. My children would have then returned home.
“You need to have a deterrent in place. If you do people will know in advance that it is a crime to take a child and wrongfully retain them.”