The recent judgment in Re X (Children) (Abduction: Grave Risk: Children’s Objections) provides significant insights into the complexities of international child abduction cases under the 1980 Hague Convention. This review details the case’s background, the legal arguments presented, the court’s analysis, and its implications for future clients facing similar issues.

Case Background

The parties involved are the father (Applicant) and the mother (Respondent), both Hong Kong nationals with British Nationality Overseas status. They have three children: A (13), B (nearly 11), and C (9), all born and raised in Hong Kong. In the summer of 2023, the mother brought the children to England without the father’s consent, prompting the father to seek their return under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

The mother did not dispute the wrongful removal but opposed the return on the grounds of grave risk of harm and the children’s objections.

Key Arguments

1. Grave Risk of Harm

The mother argued that returning to Hong Kong would expose the children to physical or psychological harm. She detailed a strict and at times abusive environment, citing instances of physical punishment by the father and the children’s adverse reactions to change due to their diagnoses of autism and ADHD.

2. Children’s Objections

All three children expressed strong objections to returning to Hong Kong, describing a harsh educational regime and physical punishment. They preferred the educational environment in England, which they found less stressful and more supportive.

Court’s Analysis and Judgment

1. Protective Measures

Deputy High Court Judge Richard Harrison KC recognized the need for concrete protective measures to address the potential risks. The father offered several undertakings to mitigate these risks, including:

  • Vacating the family home for the mother and children.
  • Providing financial support for living expenses and flights.
  • Ensuring the children would not attend the rigorous tutorial center.
  • Obtaining protective orders from Hong Kong courts.

The court determined that these measures would adequately protect the children from the alleged risks upon their return to Hong Kong.

2. Evaluating the Children’s Objections

The court acknowledged the children’s objections but also considered potential influences from the mother. Despite their strong preference to remain in England, the court found that the objections were influenced by the mother’s actions and sentiments towards Hong Kong and the father.

3. Welfare Considerations and Policy Objectives

The court weighed the policy objectives of the 1980 Hague Convention, emphasizing the need to deter child abduction and restore children to their country of habitual residence. The judge also considered the children’s welfare, noting that while they had settled well in their new schools in England, their long-term well-being involved maintaining connections with their extended family and their cultural roots in Hong Kong.

Legal Framework

Overview of the 1980 Hague Convention

The 1980 Hague Convention aims to: (a) Protect children from the harmful effects of wrongful removal or retention. (b) Ensure the prompt return of abducted children to their country of habitual residence. (c) Respect custody and access rights across Contracting States.

The Convention’s objectives are achieved by deterring wrongful removal or retention of children. The welfare of the child, while not the paramount consideration under the Convention, is a primary consideration in proceedings.

Article 13(b) – Grave Risk of Harm

Under Article 13(b), a court may refuse to order the return of a child if it finds a grave risk of physical or psychological harm or an intolerable situation. The burden of proof lies with the respondent. Courts must evaluate the risk to the child, consider potential protective measures, and assume the highest level of alleged risk when making their decision.

Child’s Objections

A child’s objections can also serve as a basis for refusal under Article 13. The court considers the child’s age, maturity, and the authenticity of their objections, balanced against Convention policy and welfare considerations.


The court ordered the return of the children to Hong Kong, subject to the protective measures proposed by the father and additional safeguards enforced by the Hong Kong court. This judgment highlights the court’s balancing act between adhering to international legal frameworks and prioritizing the children’s immediate welfare needs.

Implications for Future Clients

For clients facing similar international child abduction cases, this judgment provides several takeaways:

  1. Protective Measures: Courts will look favorably on concrete and enforceable protective measures that mitigate potential risks to children.
  2. Children’s Objections: While children’s views are considered, the court will scrutinize the context and potential influences on these objections.
  3. Welfare Considerations: The child’s long-term welfare, including cultural and familial connections, plays a critical role in the court’s decision.
  4. Legal Representation: Having experienced legal counsel to present a well-rounded argument and propose practical solutions is crucial.

This case underscores the importance of a comprehensive approach that balances legal obligations with the nuanced needs of children in international abduction scenarios.

For more information or to schedule a consultation, please contact us at [email protected] or [email protected] or call our York, London, Manchester, or Birmingham offices. Let’s kick off this summer with the assurance that Paradigm Family Law is by your side.

Contact Information

  • York Office: Blake House, 18 Blake Street, York YO1 8QH Phone: 01904 217225 (8:30 am – 5:30 pm M – F, Appointments Not Required)
  • London Office: 10 Fitzroy Square, London W1T 5HP Phone: 020 3633 2301 (By Appointment Only)
  • Manchester Office: 13th Floor, City Tower, Manchester M1 4BT Phone: 0161 327 3677 (By Appointment Only)
  • Birmingham Office: Eleven Brindley Place, Brunswick Square, Birmingham B1 2LP Phone: 020 3633 2301 (By Appointment Only)