Judge grants media right to name family involved in tug-of-love row to discourage repeat offences

A judge decided that the media could identify a family involved in a tug-of-love row after concluding that full reporting might help prevent other estranged parents from attempting to abduct their own children.

Mr Justice Peter Jackson was dealing with a case in which a Russian academic who lectured in the language at a London university "abducted" two of his sons and fled to his homeland after their American-born mother moved to a women's refuge complaining that she was a victim of "long-standing domestic violence".

The case also made legal history as the courts in the Russian Federation courts had recognised – for the first time – an order by an English court.

"It is an outstanding example of the value of international cooperation in protecting individual children and deterring potential abductors," the judge said.

"The legal process has in the end defeated a determined abductor with no respect for court orders in either jurisdiction.

"This court expresses its profound appreciation for the steps taken by the Russian courts and civil authorities in eventually securing the safe return of the children to their mother's care."

Lawyers initially released details of the battle between American-born Rachael Neustadt and her estranged husband Ilya – including the names of their children – after the youngsters went missing following a trip to Russia with their father.

Another judge, who dealt with the dispute at an early stage, gave Neustadt permission to release information to journalists in the hope that publicity might help get the youngsters back to London.

The Press Association then asked if the children's names could stay in the public domain once they returned and private family court proceedings relating to their future care began.

Mr Justice Peter Jackson canvassed the views of everyone involved in the case before concluding the identities could continue to reported.

"There is a public interest in the true circumstances of this case being known," the judge said on Friday last week.

"The parties' accounts of events have already been widely published in England and in Russia."

He added: "The true facts should be known, particularly where misinformation has been published by one party."

The judge said the case was the first in which English and Russian courts had co-operated under an international legal convention relating to child abduction.

It showed the importance of an international convention on child abduction, the willingness and ability of the courts of the Russian Federation to apply it, and the results which could be achieved when lawyers worked together across jurisdictions.

Mr Justice Peter Jackson added: "Knowledge of the outcome in this case may encourage the adult victims of other child abductions and deter potential child abductors, especially if the latter know that they might be publicly named.

"I do not consider that any serious or lasting disadvantage will come to the children from further publication. The existing publicity does not seem to have had any adverse effect on them."

Solicitor Caroline Korah, who works for law firm Dawson Cornwell – which represented Neustadt, added: "The British media has reported sensitively and responsibly. The publicity has been essential in garnering attention and assistance for the return of the children, for international family lawyers specialising in parental child abduction and working cross-jurisdictionally, and also as a deterrent to potential child abductors."

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