Legal eagles are all set to discuss ‘Spooner abduction loophole’

Ken Spooner with children Devlan and Caelan before the abduction
Ken Spooner with children Devlan and Caelan before the abduction

SOME of the finest legal minds in the country are set to discuss the closure of a loophole in the law that could prevent other parents going through the same pain as a father whose children were taken to Zambia.

Ken 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.

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.

A change in the law could have meant he 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.

In December, MP for Milton Keynes North Mark Lancaster promised to look into the situation.

Now a number of top QCs are set to discuss the matter on behalf of international parental child abduction charity, Reunite.

The move follows the decision of the Australian government to criminalise wrongful retention.

If the lawyers believe Britain should follow suit, it could lead to a debate in the House of Commons.

Mr Lancaster has also received a reply from Justice Secretary Tom McNally to earlier questions in Parliament on the subject.

In his letter, Mr McNally said the Government has ‘no current plans to legislate further’ in the area of international child abduction, saying instead that the UK already participates in ‘meetings to review and enhance the operation of the 1980 Hague Convention’.

The Hague Convention is an agreement between signed-up countries which aims to ensure the return of an abducted child to their home country.

But Mr Spooner said: “If the main objective is to protect the best interests of the child, then there has to be a deterrent in place to prevent such actions from taking place.

“Unless there is a change to the law, abducting parents will continue to abuse the loophole, and this will become an even bigger problem.

“Perhaps the question should be put to the left behind parents, and see if there are any that would accept Mr McNally’s justification.”

Speaking in December, Mr Lancaster said: “I find it staggering that children can be abducted from a parent and the actions of the other parent are not classified as criminal.”