On Wednesday November 18, 2015, faced with losing all four of their children, a Latvian-Russian family successfully escaped from Great Britain. As imprisonment could be a consequence of naming them, they will be called the Jansons here. A young couple, cultured and intelligent, and four beautiful children from nine years old down, they had been living and working in a Lancashire town.
Their nightmare began when a teacher noticed a small mark on the oldest boy's neck. The school called in Social Services who claimed to find another mark on his leg. The draconian measures began with a local judge ordering the children to be placed in the care of their grandmother until further action could be taken and their passports seized.
As it became clear that their children would be seized and placed in foster care, the Jansons sought advice and took urgent action, while a significant number of families in the British Latvian-Russian community looked on with alarm. If this could happen to a lovely family such as the Jansons, who was safe? Especially as so many other Latvian and Eastern European children had been taken that their governments had complained.
As their registration number would not be safe, they were loaned a car from a friend in the community and, on Wednesday November 18, grabbed their children and a few belongings and drove onto the ferry for Dublin, where they sat in a hotel fearful to go outside. On Thursday the Lancashire judge issued an order on pain of imprisonment for their return and the order was also sent to the Irish and Latvian authorities. Another community member contacted the help network in Ireland who phoned the Jansons and, after assuring them that it was safe to go outdoors, asked them to drive down to County Wexford. They first visited the Latvian Embassy in Dublin who were most helpful and issued emergency travel documents for return direct to Riga. Their remaining fear was arrest at Dublin Airport. They booked a flight to Riga for Sunday.
On Saturday morning they drove 100 miles down to County Wexford to be met by key members of the network. A plan was prepared. Should the children be seized at the airport and placed in temporary care in Dublin the parents would go directly to the High Court in Dublin on Monday morning where a legal procedure, previously successfully carried out for other families, would be applied for.
As an indication of how draconian the British system has become, it was vital for the family and the experts in the network to examine the court order, but at the same time illegal for it to be shown to anyone. We cannot name the family, the school, the local authority or the social workers but we can name the judge - Judge Ross Duggan.
After a two hour meeting with members of the network, feeling a lot better, they drove to a safe house where they left the car, its papers and the key, so that its owner could come across by ferry and drive it back to Lancashire. They then returned by bus back to Dublin.
They went early to Dublin Airport on Sunday morning, but, on checking in that afternoon, were stopped by six police who interviewed each of them separately. Despite this ordeal, they were released and allowed board the Riga flight. At Riga they were detained by police for one hour and then released to their waiting friends.
As the message came through saying "They are safe!" the network members were delighted. They were also intrigued at the response of the Irish Gardai at Dublin Airport, apart from it having saved them a Monday morning visit to the High Court. This now is their opinion.
The court order actually only orders the parents to return the children. Although it is disclosed to the Irish authorities it has no jurisdiction in Ireland. There was no arrest warrant attached and there was no return order agreed by the Master of the High Court in Dublin, so the Gardai had no jurisdiction to act. All they could do was a welfare check and had there been a problem then they could have used their Section 12 powers under the Child Care Act 1991 to take the children into police protection. Clearly the children were well and confirmed so, hence that power could not legally be utilised to aid the UK authorities.
The Irish police deserve praise for their sensible approach and for not accepting the 'over-lording' of the UK authorities.
Significantly, there is an alarmed Latvian-Russian community in the UK watching this case, all now fearing for their own families.
Read Telegraph story.
Story on Latvian TV.
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