Two years ago, 11 month old Panagiotis Laskos was abducted from Australia to Poland by his mother.
Panagiotis & his mother are Australian Citizens. His mother is also a Polish national. His father Dimitrios is an Australian citizen and is also a Greek national. Panagiotis is an Australian citizen & travelled to Poland with his mother on an Australian Passport.
Dimitrios immediately lodged an application with the Polish Government for Panagiotis to be returned to Australia under the provisions of the Hague Convention. This is the only legal mechanism available to a parent whose child has been abducted from Australia.
1) When the person, institution or other body having the care of the person of the child was not actually exercising the custody rights at the time of removal or retention, or had consented to or subsequently acquiesced in the removal or retention; or
3) Under some circumstances, the return can be refused if the child has become settled in the country it has been abducted to. This usually applies if the Hague application is not submitted within 12 months of the abduction taking place.
The Polish courts initially refused to return Panagiotis to Australia because his mother didn't want to return to Australia. This is not a legitimate reason under the provisions of the Hague Convention. Dimitrios appealed the decision to the High Court of Poland. He has now been told this court has also refused to return Panagiotis to Australia.
Their reasons were:
1) The child doesn't speak English. This is not a legitimate reason under the provisions of the HC. Anyway, the only reason the child doesn't speak English is because he was abducted to Poland two years ago & it has taken this much time to work through the Polish courts.
2) The child no longer knows its father. This is not a legitimate reason under the provisions of the Hague Convention. The purpose of the Hague Convention is to enable children to be reunited with their other parent as quickly as possible & to enable parenting matters to be heard in the courts within the jurisdiction of the child's "country of habitual residence".
The only reason the child no longer knows its father is because it was abducted and then prevented from having any contact with its father for almost two years. Dimitrios travelled to Poland last year to see his
2) The father lied to the court about his property holdings in Sydney & he is unreliable. This is not relevant under the HC. The court had asked Dimitrios for proof that he owned property in Australia & Dimitrios agreed to provide this information even though it wasn't relevant to the case.
Dimitrios had to sell his home to pay for his legal fees. His aunt owns a 6 bedroom house in Sydney & has offered to transfer the title to Dimitrios. The court would not accept this. Dimitrios also owns a very successful restaurant in Sydney but he doesn't own the building. This was not taken into consideration by the court.
Let's not forget.....none of this is relevant to the Hague Convention. In the two years it has taken Dimitrios to work through the Polish courts, the mother has had the child's name legally changed and has had it baptised in a different religion to the one it was originally baptised in when the child was in Australia. She commenced divorce proceedings without Dimitrious knowing about this. She is also being supported publicly by Polish politicians & the Polish media. Dimitrios has no other avenue of appeal within the Polish legal system. He has no legal avenues available to him within Australia either because International Parental Child Abduction is not a crime in Australia. If it was, consideration could be given to seeking the extradition of the child's mother.
This decision by the Polish High Court is a travesty of justice and a blatant breach of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. It also shows the Polish legal system has total contempt for international law & that the Polish Government is complicit in the abduction of Australian children.
At least 150 children are abducted from Australia each year. Unlike several other 'developed' countries, it is not a criminal offence in Australia for a parent to abduct a child from this country. This means Dimitrios has no further legal avenues available to him in either Poland or Australia to have his son returned.
Where to now?
To be continued....