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The Law Commission is the statutory independent body created by the Law Commissions Act 1965 to keep the law under review and to recommend reform where it is needed. The aim of the Commission is to ensure that the law is:

  • fair
  • modern
  • simple
  • as cost-effective as possible
Professor David Ormerod, Law Commissioner

Professor David Ormerod, Law Commissioner

Simplifying the law of kidnapping and child abduction

Over 300 children are unlawfully retained overseas every year. In our latest report we recommend reforms that will clarify the offences of kidnapping and false imprisonment, and allow for the prosecution of parents who keep their children overseas in contravention of a court order or without permission of the other parent.

We are recommending that the existing common Law offences of kidnapping and false imprisonment should be replaced with two new statutory offences. False imprisonment will be replaced by unlawful detention, and kidnapping will become a statutory offence based on the use or threat of force to take or move the victim.  The new offences will continue to capture the range of criminal conduct covered by the existing law.

The reforms we are recommending in relation to child abduction are designed to solve two problems with the current law:

•   The seven-year maximum sentence for child abduction has been considered too limited in some extreme cases. We believe the maximum sentence should be increased to 14 years.

•   To fill a gap in the current law, we are recommending that the child abduction offence be extended to those cases where a child is lawfully removed from the UK, but then unlawfully retained abroad.

Professor David Ormerod QC, Law Commissioner for criminal law, said: “The wrongful separation of a child from its parent can have a devastating effect on all involved. An opportunity exists to introduce reforms that will modernise and simplify this area of law, and allow the courts to deal adequately and appropriately with offenders.”

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