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Stop Press


08:50 - 21 January 2008

An inquiry is being demanded today into how the courts, the legal system and the authorities have handled an Aberdeen father's seven-year fight for the custody of his young daughter.

North-east SNP MSP Nigel Don said he wants a wide-ranging investigation into the case in which the father's estranged wife took his child away to England seven years ago - and how an English court has claimed jurisdiction despite an order in a Scottish court forbidding the child's removal.

Mr Don said in a statement last night that he wants an investigation into the handling of the case by police forces, social work author-ities, voluntary organisations and the courts on both sides of the border.

He said: "My view is that this man and his daughter have suffered an injustice. Firstly, his child was wrongly taken from him with the help of the police and social work authorities. She later returned, but then left again with the help of a national voluntary organisation.

"The English courts wrongly granted his wife the right to live in England with the child. He was given no opportunity to put his case. Then when he tried to see his child in England, he was arrested.

"This man has been fighting in the Scottish and English courts for seven years to get his daughter back. His business has gone, his health has suffered and he now lives in relative poverty.

"He has been the victim of legal mistakes and a system which in practice favours mothers over fathers. And he has had considerable diffi-culty finding solicitors and advocates willing or able to represent him."

A hearing is due shortly in Edinburgh in a bid to sort out the wrangle.

Mr Don said the father is fighting the Passport Agency's decision to obey an order of the English courts to award the daughter a passport.

The MSP has written to Scottish Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing asking him to launch the inquiry and work jointly with Bridget Prentice, a junior UK justice minister.

Mr Don has also sent a summary of the case to Lord Gill, who is currently reviewing the operation of Scotland's civil courts.

He said: "I believe there are many lessons to be learned from this. My view is that family law is too complicated, legal services are too expensive, the courts are failing fathers and their children, and the misery of family break-up is unnecessarily extended."

Ms Prentice's involvement follows a Commons debate on the case called by Aberdeen North Labour MP Frank Doran in which he said: "A young child has been denied contact with her father for several years."

The father said he appreciated the call for an inquiry.

He said: "At the end of the day the only way this injustice to my daughter and myself can be highlighted is by action like this. It is the only way I can seek redress."

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