In the first, Aussie dad Ken Thompson is finally back home in New South Wales with his son Andrew. Here’s the latest (Herald Sun, 1/30/11).
As you may recall, Andrew’s mother Melinda Stratton abducted the boy three years ago claiming abuse by Thompson. Courts found that no abuse had occurred, and, to many observers it looked like the real cause of Stratton’s taking the boy was Thompson’s bid for greater contact with him.
But whatever the case, Andrew had vanished with his mother and, although Thompson had some ideas about where they might be, he didn’t get much help through “official channels.” So he retired from his job as chief of the local fire brigade and flew to Europe. There he bicycled thousands of kilometers both looking for Andrew and publicizing his abduction.
Eventually, in the Netherlands, an official at a school in which Stratton had enrolled him recognized Andrew and alerted police. The boy was taken into care and Stratton arrested. She’s still behind bars there having refused all efforts by Thompson to come to a custody agreement. She’s currently scheduled to be tried in criminal court in Australia for her abduction of the little boy who is now six.
I’ve inveighed against parental child abduction before. Ample social science rightly calls it child abuse because it deprives the child of one parent and that parent’s extended family. Abducting parents tend to have personality issues that negatively impact the child who is cut off from any source of support but the abducting parent.
A fortunately-small number of people are happy to promote child abduction by mothers. They do so because they accept without question all claims by mothers of child abuse by fathers.
In many cases they do so even though courts have conducted exhaustive investigations into the allegations and found them to be baseless. The Neustein, Collins, Loeliger, Shokome and Rogers cases are just a few of those that apologists for maternal abductors grasp at to defend the abduction of children. Doubtless they’ll go to bat for Melinda Stratton as well.
When reading their apologies, it’s worth remembering that psychologists understand child abduction by whichever parent to be child abuse.
And speaking of abuse, the second piece here deals with Aussie businessman Fred Martens’ abuse by the Australian system of criminal law that worked as a cat’s-paw for his vindictive ex-wife in a custody dispute (Sydney Morning Herald, 1/31/11).
Back in 2004 he was arrested for the rape of a girl in Papua New Guinea where he has business interests. He was convicted, but always maintained his innocence. Finally, in 2009, a court in Australia overturned his conviction because documentary evidence proved that Martens had been elsewhere at the times of the two incidents alleged.
Where had that evidence been at his original trial? Apparently hidden from the court by police and prosecutors, that’s where. About those records, the appellate court ruled that,
”Had [they] been put into evidence at the trial it would not have been open to the jury to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt the petitioner was guilty.”
In other words, the judge would not have allowed a jury to find him guilty, but would have instructed a verdict of acquittal. Eventually the complainant retracted her allegations.
Fred Martens served some 2 1/2 years in prison, convicted of crimes the prosecution and police knew at the time he couldn’t have committed. He also lost his home and all his business assets into the bargain.
Now he’s suing multiple parties including prosecutors and the police in both Australia and PNG for his abuse at their hands.
But of course that leaves someone out – Martens’ ex-wife at whose behest all of this originated for the sole purpose of denying him custody. Where are the criminal charges against her?
This is far from the first time we’ve seen police and prosecutors who are more than willing to use the power of the state to assist vindictive ex-wives in custody matters. They do so by (a) believing without scrutiny allegations of rape or abuse (b) covering up or ignoring evidence of innocence and (c) managing not to notice what everyone else can plainly see – that the allegations just happen to come about during a bitter child custody case.
As but one example, in Washington State, a father spent 17 years in prison based on just such a scenario.
I’ve written a lot about how family courts come between fathers and children. I’ve also written about the less obvious ways in which other institutions such as school districts help to prevent father-child contact by the simple expedient of not informing him about events, activities, etc.
So it’s time to recognize the fact that there are still other social institutions that sometimes serve the same end. Police and prosecutors need to understand that they’re not mere extensions of mothers desires in child custody matters. If there’s an allegation of abuse that has evidence to back it up then they should prosecute vigorously. If there’s not, they should drop the case and let the chips fall where they will.
And if they don’t, they should pay a heavy price. That’s exactly what Fred Martens is trying to accomplish now. I wish him the best of luck.