Judges dismiss social services application over rights of foreign diplomats’ children

Judges who were asked to consider how social workers and police can protect children at risk of harm if the parents are foreign diplomats have decided not to declare that legal provisions over diplomatic privileges are incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Lawyers representing Barnet Council in London asked for clarity after social services bosses were told to halt family court proceedings centred on the children of a diplomat.

Sir Andrew McFarlane (pictured), the most senior family court judge in England and Wales, and Sir Duncan Ouseley considered issues at a virtual hearing in the Family Division of the High Court earlier this year.

A barrister who led the council’s legal team had told judges that social services staff wanted to know what they could do if concerns were raised about the children of diplomats possibly being abused.

Hannah Markham QC asked Sir Andrew, the president of the Family Division of the High Court, and Sir Duncan to declare that provisions of law relating to diplomatic privileges were incompatible with provisions of the ECHR.

The two judges on Thursday dismissed the council’s application.

They said there was nothing to prevent the International Law Commission taking up the issues to seek some internationally agreed protocol to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations to deal with child protection.

The two judges had heard that another judge last year told Barnet Council bosses to halt their attempts to take a foreign diplomat’s children into care.

Social services staff were concerned the children were being physically abused by their diplomat father and their mother.

But Mr Justice Mostyn concluded that the diplomat and his family had diplomatic immunity and the litigation must be halted.

The diplomat and his family have left Britain and returned to their homeland, judges heard.

Sir Andrew and Sir Duncan said the children at the centre of the case could not be identified in media reports of the case.

They also said the diplomat’s nationality could not be revealed.

Mr Justice Mostyn delivered his ruling a year ago after a private hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London.

The judge said the question of whether a serving diplomat had immunity from child protection proceedings had never before been considered at a court in England and Wales.

He said research showed there had only been one similar case in the world.

Mr Justice Mostyn said there was “strong prima facie evidence” and said he had warned the parents about their conduct.

Foreign Office ministers had told the foreign government that employed the diplomat that the he and his family should leave the UK, and they subsequently returned to their homeland, judges heard.

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