A salesman accused of assisting in the abduction of his seven-year-old nephew in England has walked free after a judge concluded that there was a “serious defect” in family court paperwork served on him by police.
Mohammed Chaudhry, of Kettering, Northamptonshire, was arrested following the disappearance of Mani Dad.
Mani had been living with his Polish mother, Leyla Dad, who is in her 30s, in Kielce, Poland, when he vanished early this year. He is thought to be with his British father – Ms Dad’s estranged husband, Zayn Dean, who is in his 40s and is also known as Dholtana Dad, judges have heard.
Ms Dad launched family court proceedings in a bid to find her son. She complained that Mr Chaudhry, who was brought up in Bradford and is Mr Dean’s brother, had not revealed all he knew – and asked for him to be committed to prison for contempt of court.
But Mr Justice Holman has “struck out” Ms Dad’s application after concluding that Mr Chaudhry had not been given proper warning that breaching an order to provide information could result in him being jailed.
The judge said family court rules required a jail warning to be “prominently displayed on the front” of any copy of an order served.
He said paperwork served on Mr Chaudhry had not complied with that requirement.
He said the jail warning had not appeared on the front of an order served on Mr Chaudhry but was “merely a part” of “several pages of somewhat indigestible text”.
The judge also suggested that Mr Chaudhry would have struggled to comprehend the “complex” documents handed to him by police.
He said Mr Chaudhry had suffered a “great deal of injustice”.
Barrister Sally Bradley, who represented Mr Chaudhry, initially raised the paperwork problem at a hearing in July.
And Mr Justice Holman said he could not “waive the procedural defect”.
“I am personally quite clear that a great deal of injustice was caused to him,” said Mr Justice Holman, who analysed the case at a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London, in a written ruling.
“All applications to commit require proper adherence to the requirements of any enactment and rule of court.
“In the present case there is a serious defect in the order upon which the application to commit is based.”
He added: “I simply cannot commit Mr Chaudhry to prison for any breach of the order, however egregious. In my view that has the consequence that I must indeed strike out the application.”
Another judge had earlier raised questions about Mr Chaudhry.
Mr Justice Newton said at a hearing in June that his preliminary view was that Mr Chaudhry had not told him ”everything that was going on”.
Mr Justice Holman said Mani's disappearance was a matter of the ``the utmost gravity and seriousness''.
“It involves the abduction of a child from his mother with whom he was living, apparently by his father,” he said.
“That abduction took place on or about 6th January 2015. As I understand it, there has been no face to face contact at all between the child and his mother since then, now over eight months ago; and, indeed, the mother does not even have any reliable information as to where in the world her child is.
“An abduction and retention of a child in those circumstances involves abhorrent cruelty both to the parent from whom the child has been abducted (in this case, his mother) and also to the child himself.
“So, although in this judgment I must take a firm line with regard to the procedural defects in this case, I wish to emphasise from the outset that I do not in any way whatsoever underestimate or minimise the gravity of this case from the perspective of the applicant mother, or in its likely impact upon the child who is the ultimate subject of these proceedings.”
He added: “Late in 2014 the mother agreed to their son spending a period of time staying with his father, but on the clear basis that he would be returned by the father to the mother not later than 6th January 2015 in order to resume at his school in Poland, and to resume his normal daily residence with his mother.
“The father failed to return the son to the mother and effectively disappeared with him. There is apparently some evidence that the father and son rapidly travelled between Germany, Belgium and France, and may then have entered England ...
“Whether or not the father or child are currently in England or indeed anywhere in the United Kingdom is, frankly, much more speculative. The father has said in electronic communications that they are in fact in Pakistan.”