Statistics released earlier this year by the “Office of the Head of International Family Justice for England and Wales” show a worrying increase in the number of reported child abduction cases.
The Office plays a critical central role in child abduction issues nationwide – operating a help desk and functioning as a centre of international child abduction expertise. The publication of its figures for 2011 showed that the number of individual cases referred to the Office [following its creation in January 2005] continued its a year-on-year increase.
From a relatively slow start [ there were just 3referrals in 2005 ] the figures have shown a steady increase – 2007 saw 27 cases referred, with a huge jump in 2011 to 180. Projections for 2012 are set for yet another leap to 240 cases.
These figures seem to backup the latest statistics published by the International Child Abduction Centre run by Reunite – “the leading UK charity specialising in the movement of children across international borders”. Their own statistics saw their own advice line deal with a huge 47% hike in number of reported child abductions last year. Reunite figures show that, in 2011, they handled 512 new child abduction cases -of which the bulk, 479, related to children who were removed from the UK and taken overseas, 189 referring to children abducted into the UK, 56 children being abducted between non-UK jurisdictions with the remaining 16 cases referring to internal UK jurisdictional child abductions.
What’s the reason for the increase? According to Lord Justice Thorpe, who is the Head of International Family Justice for England and Wales, part of the increase could simply be down to the fact that international family litigation continues to grow. For example, the Office now deals with 51 separate jurisdictions – up from just 13 in 2007.
Whatever the reason, these sad statistics are almost certainly just the tip of the iceberg, with most child abductions so simply not appearing in any official figures as they go unreported to Reunite or government bodies.