Mother jailed after moving daughters to Alaska without father’s permission

A British mother who moved her daughters to Alaska without their father’s permission has been jailed after admitting abduction charges.

Indea Ford, 34, broke court orders to take the children to Sitka after the breakdown of their “acrimonious” relationship, Isleworth Crown Court heard on Monday.

Ford, who previously lived in Maidstone, Kent, struggled to hold back tears as she was jailed for three years and six months.

She pleaded guilty to two counts of abducting her children, now seven and eight, without appropriate consent in 2015.

Sentencing Ford, Recorder Gibson Grenfell QC said: “A cynic might say the defendant has achieved what she set out to achieve: keep the children in America permanently.”

But he said the father, who cannot be named for legal reasons, may have at times behaved “reprehensibly” during the relationship.

Parts of Ford’s mitigation has been made subject to reporting restrictions, but the court heard the father denies certain allegations.

After marrying an American in the military, Ford broke a custody order and a family court judgment preventing her moving the children abroad.

Lauren Soertsz, in mitigation, said Ford made the “wrong decision” when she overstayed in the US while on holiday, but did so with the best intentions.

“She was operating on emotion and when she saw how happy the children were, her desire for that to continue was just too strong,” Ms Soertsz said.

She added: “By remaining in America, she was protecting her children. She wanted them to experience a conflict-free life. Something neither had had in their short lives.”

After their relationship broke down in 2012, a family court in Dartford ordered that custody be shared between the biological parents.

The judge also ordered that each parent must hold one of the girls’ passports and Ford failed in May 2015 to get a family court to approve their move to the US.

But her sentencing hearing was told how the father went round to collect the girls on October 3, 2015, and could not find them.

The father called police and they learned the girls had left a day earlier on a flight to the States after she obtained a new passport for the second child, claiming it had been lost or stolen.

Jennifer Knight, prosecuting, said the girls were made wards of the court five days after their disappearance when the father made an application in the High Court.

The police became involved and Ford, who has a child with her new husband, was extradited in April.

The children remain with their stepfather in the US state. Their father was not in court.

Ford is likely to be released in about nine months, having already served time in custody on both sides of the Atlantic.

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