‘I’ve only spoken to him once in 11 years and that was in a foreign country through the letter box of a locked door…’
The real tragedy of parental child ‘kidnap’ has gained international attention in recent years. Sadly, though much of the attention has been on dramatic stories of “child recovery agents” snatching children back under the cover of darkness.
What we are not told is how often these operations fail and the agony the parent who has lost contact has to go through.
Australian mother of two, Sally Faulkner, was part of such a failed operation in the Lebanon in June this year…
In an attempt to recover her children, Sally was accompanied by a crew from CBS’s 60 Minutes. Sadly, the operation was such a spectacular disaster that all participants were jailed, including the 60 minutes crew who it is believed were subsequently charged with failing to report a crime.
Sally is back in Australia, without her children and has relinquished custody of them to avoid fears of a Lebanese prison.
The question of course is why Sally – who has written a tell-all book, All for My Children – would take such a risk? Why not let the courts handle the matter?
Sally said: “Maybe people think I did the wrong thing by going over there and trying to get my children. But I was driven by love and desperation.”
Rachel writes, in 2005, I discovered my dear friend Paul Brown from Toowoomba, Queensland, was going through something similar.
And after fighting for his son for 11 years – and, in his own words, doing everything right -Paul is no better off today than when his son was taken to Japan.
Liam Shiratori Paul Brown was born in Brisbane Australia on October 19 2002, to Paul and Japanese born Tomiko Shiratori. When Liam was two months old, Tomiko decided she wanted to return to Japan.
Paul says Tomiko had accused him of abuse although he says it was discounted by the Australian Family Court.
However, the court agreed to allow Tomiko to take Liam to Japan for a month. The Judge ordered Tomiko to make a $10,000 bond which she would forfeit is she did not return and she went on vacation with Liam.
At the time there was no extradition agreement between Australia and Japan. In fact, it would appear no child has ever been successfully returned from Japan since the end of the Second World War and today the Australian courts are as powerless as they were almost 70 years ago.
In the years since Liam’s move to Japan, Paul has lobbied his local members of parliament and those in higher offices, written letters and appeared on television and radio. Sadly, he is still without his son and with no apparent way of getting him back.
If Paul were to take the route of Sally Faulkner, you could understand the motivation … he no longer trusts the Australian authorities.
In 2013 Paul and his partner Jackie travelled to Japan. Liam’s whereabouts had never been confirmed he says, but friends were able to track his mother down and Liam was indeed with her and his maternal grandmother.
Paul and Jackie made an attempt to see him but were afraid of the police being called.
Heart-breakingly Paul says he made eye contact with Liam that day but he was unable to tell Liam that he now had a step brother and a new baby sister.
Paul’s hopes were raised again in April of 2014 when Japan finally ratified the Hague Convention. His hopes were dashed very swiftly though when it was announced that the Convention would not be reinforced retroactively. Paul now has no legal means to appeal for contact in the Japanese courts.
In another attempt to see Liam, Paul and Jackie returned to Japan and had some luck, of sorts. Paul spent hours sitting at the door of Liam’s home and talked to him through the mail slot.
Police were called and they were understanding but insisted that Paul and Jackie move on.
Paul said: “Last year when we were turned down at the door I was very shattered and emotional, this year we are ok. I still didn’t get what I wanted but I know Liam heard me when I was at the door speaking to him, and he knows how much I am willing to do to see him. So now I can only hope that one day he will contact me himself.”
So back to the Sally Faulkner approach. Why not just go and get him? Paul has expressed to me on several occasions that he has no intention of snatching Liam away from his mother.
He said: “My only goal for continuing my search for Liam is purely to re-establish contact with him and be able to be a part of his life and also to help raise awareness of the kind of thing that can happen. I believe strongly that all children have the right to know both of their parents and decide for themselves who they want to be with or what sort of relationship they want to have with their parents. Liam was too young to have been able to make any decisions, and I believe he will ultimately suffer most as a consequence.”
The plight of “Left Behind Parents” is truly heartbreaking. In all cases, whether it is across borders or just suburbs, it is the children who are the losers. Parents must choose to prioritise their love for their children above their feelings towards each other.
Andrew John Teague, a spokesman for D.A.D.S. (dads against double standards), a UK organisation set up to help people deal with child alienation, said: “This is the worst time of the year for people who are apart from their children – that’s why we set up this group, to help.
“There is a phenomenon the world over, parental alienation. Hundreds of thousands are denied access to a loving and meaningful relationship with both parents.
“Sadly it is often the mother who develops a pattern of parental alienation not only from the father, but from all of the paternal family. This obviously works the other way too but statistically more men become victims.
“Children are growing up without the foundations of secure lives. The UK court system is there to protect and ensure that children come first and that parents should have equal rights. However, there is growing evidence that the basic overriding objectives of the courts are not being upheld.”
The Consumer Watch Foundation has attempted to contact Tomiko Shiratori for her views and comments but without success … if you know of her whereabouts please ask her to contact firstname.lastname@example.org