A 17-year-old girl who was badly beaten by her parents along with her siblings during their childhoods, has lost her appeal to ask the courts to intervene, because her father is protected by diplomatic immunity. Diplomatic laws also include family immunity, which means the girl is unable to raise a case against her mother.
In the judgment, led by family court chief judge McFarlane, the girl is also told any challenge to the law could result in UK diplomats abroad being investigated for similar allegations of abuse, and would be bad “for international relations generally.”
Researching Reform first wrote about the case in 2020, in a post in which we revealed details of the abuse.
The six children in this case were living in London with their parents in the family home. The father is a serving diplomat on a diplomatic mission. The children are S (5), G (9), A (14), N (17), E (18) and D (18, a paternal half-brother). The figures in brackets were the children’s ages in 2020.
The proceedings, which began in January 2020, only concerned the three youngest children to start with, though all of the children offered their input during different stages of the case.
The children said their siblings were beaten with belts, hit with a broken chair leg, pulled by the hair, and made to contort their bodies in unnatural positions for long periods of time leading to enormous physical pain.
One child said their eyesight had been impaired after a violent blow to the side of their face, while others described bleeding from their injuries.
The reasons for these ‘punishments’ have been included in the judgment, but we will not repeat them here.
The children came to the attention of the courts after one of the siblings alerted the Local Authority to the physical abuse of one of their siblings by their father. A primary school teacher then alerted social services after a sibling disclosed that they had been hit daily with a thick belt by both parents. This is the heart-breaking extract from the teacher’s referral, which is shared in the 2020 judgment:
“During an English vocabulary lesson the chn [children] were defining the word ‘lashing’. When I described ‘lashing’ as being hit with a whip or a belt [G] said ‘oh, I get hit with a thick belt everyday by my Mum, but my Dad is much worse’. I asked him to clarify if he meant what he had said and he said ‘yes, every day for watching too much TV.’”
The case becomes even more concerning when details of the parents’ attempts at concealing their abuse come to light in the judgment.
One of the children said the father hit them with a broken chair leg to avoid any obvious marks showing up on their skin. The child said the father had “wanted to ‘beat her’ but did not because she had an optician appointment the next day.”
Additional information offered about the parents’ concealment tactics included the mother putting hot water on one of her children’s faces to try to reduce marks from where she hit them.
One of the children told a social worker that their father had said they would pay for alerting social services. The parents then woke the children up at 4 am one morning and told them to write an email retracting their allegations and say they had lied so that they could stay in the UK for university. The children wrote the email.
The parents were then asked to sign an agreement enabling the local authority to work with the parents, which they initially refused to do, denying all the allegations made against them. However, the parents eventually agreed to sign an undertaking not to hit the children.
Of key significance was the lack of response from the foreign country to which the diplomat belonged, as it has the power to strip the diplomat of immunity. In this case, the foreign country was alerted to the proceedings and requests were made to intervene, but the country’s government has not yet offered a response, as far as this site is aware.
The latest hearing concerned itself with key pieces of legislation which were frustrating the child’s ability to bring her parents to justice. The mechanics of how the tensions between laws protecting diplomats and human rights legislation have essentially left the child without any recourse, or protection, is quite dry and technical, but for those interested the judgment is now available to read.
Essentially, the British family court — led by Judge McFarlane, who has established himself as a government lapdog and completely without backbone — decided it was more important to protect potentially abusive British diplomats abroad from scrutiny by not rocking the legislative boat, than it was to protect children being harmed.
For those with subscriptions to the very good LexisNexis, you can access a summary and the judgment here.