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MALTATODAY 12 September 2021

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maltatoday | SUNDAY • 12 SEPTEMBER 2021 8 NEWS MATTHEW AGIUS A family court judge has dis- missed a plea of diplomatic im- munity made by a high-ranking Spanish diplomat, against an injunction preventing him from taking his child abroad. The diplomat, who is not be- ing named in order to protect the children's identity, is one of the respondents listed in a case filed by the English moth- er against the Ministry for Children's Rights, the Foreign Ministry, the Foundation for Social Welfare Services, the State Advocate, the Spanish Ambassador and the father. According to the couple's divorce decree, which was handed down in Germany, the minor children are to reside with their father, but care and custody is shared between the parties. The father subsequently moved to Malta with the chil- dren, due to his work with the Spanish Embassy. The mother also moved to Malta in order to be close to her children, the woman's initial judicial pro- test stated. According to a court decree from July, the woman is en- titled to supervised access to her children twice a week for 2 hours. The judicial protest claims that the Director of Child Pro- tection Services had testified that during the proceedings, the Spanish Embassy and the Foreign Ministry put pressure on Child Protection Services to allow one of the children who had been living with his mother, be sent to live with the father. Meanwhile one of the minors had been taken abroad by the father without the mother's knowledge and the mother's contact with the child had been cut off. Shortly before a scheduled access appointment with the children, the woman was in- formed by CPS that the ap- pointment was not going to be held as the father "had invoked his diplomatic immunity." The woman's lawyer, Robert Thake, filed for a warrant of prohibitory injunction to stop the father from taking the cou- ple's child abroad with him. The father's lawyer, Etienne Calleja, had in fact argued that diplomatic immunity applied to this case. But Mr. Justice Anthony Vel- la, presiding the Family Court, disagreed. "A quick glance at the nature and scope of dip- lomatic immunity will imme- diately reveal that such im- munity hardly applies to civil domestic disputes between parents," noted the court in its judgment definitively uphold- ing the injunction, pointing out that the idea behind diplo- matic immunity was to avoid envoys from being hindered by local laws in the perfor- mance of their duties. "This does not mean, how- ever, that such immunity is a carte blanche for the dip- lomat to do as he pleases, or that such a person is above the law, or in Orwellian language, more equal than others," said the judge. "[The] Respondent cannot hide behind the thin veil of diplomatic immunity in this case and argue that he is un- touchable or above Maltese law," the court went on, ob- serving that the man had been making it very difficult for the mother to even see her child in accordance with a Family Court decree. The judge also noted that the couple's other minor child had already been taken out of the island, "allegedly without ap- plicant's consent." In addition, the fact that the respondent himself had filed for a similar injunction on the mother meant that he had pas- sively renounced his immunity and acquiesced to the jurisdic- tion of the Maltese courts. On the merits of the case at hand, the court said it sim- ply had to see whether there were prima facie grounds for the warrant to be provisional- ly upheld. The judge observed that in a previous sitting, it had transpired that the dip- lomat was refusing to grant access in accordance with a court decree, pointing out that this was a criminal offence against public order. "Respondent may believe he has every right to defy a court order," said the judge, "indeed he may feel aggrieved by such an order granting access to the minor child to the other part. However, once the Fam- ily Court has examined the merits in those proceedings and in spite of such an order respondent is refusing to co- operate with the other parent on this matter, the issuing of an injunction prohibiting him from leaving Malta with the child is more than justified in these circumstances." Diplomatic immunity dismissed in child custody battle Thank you... for having bought this newspaper mt The good news is that we're not raising the price of our newspaper We know times are still hard, but we have pledged to keep giving our readers quality news they deserve, without making you pay more for it. So thank you, for making it your MaltaToday Support your favourite newspaper with a special offer on online PDF subscriptions. Visit or scan the QR code Subscriptions can be done online on Same-day delivery at €1 for orders up to 5 newspapers per address. Subscribe from €1.15 a week Same-day print delivery from Miller Distributors

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