NBC Chicago Blows Coverage of International Child Abduction Case

July 15th, 2012 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
Mary Redmond’s an American, but she lived for years in Ireland.  There she met Derek Redmond and the two had a love affair.  They never married, but in due course, Mary became pregnant.  She returned to her native Illinois to give birth, but when her son was just a week old, the two returned to Ireland to live with Derek.  Things went along alright for about seven months when Mary announced she wanted to take little Jack to the United States for a month.  As these things have a way of doing, “a month” stretched into forever.  Mary didn’t return to Ireland and she kept Jack with her.

Derek went to court.  He got the Irish court to enter an order giving him and Mary joint custody and he filed a petition, under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, for return of Jack to Ireland.  Mary responded, but eventually, the Irish court did the obvious thing; it found that Jack should be with his father in Ireland.  One necessary finding was that Ireland was Jack’s residence.  Courts ruling on Hague Convention cases are required to find in what country the child’s habitual residence is located, and in Jack’s case, that was Ireland.  That’s no surprise since, when Derek filed his claim, Jack had lived almost all his life in the Emerald Isle.

But, as is so often the case, Mom wasn’t about to let a little thing like international law get in her way.  She kept Jack with her in Illinois and filed suit for custody in Cook County.  That included the requisite allegations of abuse by Derek, but, so weak were her claims that, once she got a temporary order of protection, she let the matter drop.  Still, she managed to draw out the proceedings for some four years counting the Hague case in Ireland and her case in the States.  That process meant Derek Redmond has spent his entire life savings litigating to get his son back.

And he finally succeeded.  The judge in Cook County found out that the Irish court had jurisdiction of the case and therefore refused to issue custody orders that would contravene those of the Irish judge.  After much legal wrangling and large amounts of time and money spent, Jack was finally returned to his father.  On getting into Derek’s care the five-year-old announced that he wanted “to go home and see my cat.”  So I guess the judge got it right; Ireland is Jack’s home in his eyes as well as the law’s.

So, that’s the end of a fairly unremarkable story of a child abducted by his mother.  It’s not the first one we’ve seen and it won’t be the last.  It’s certainly not the most lurid.  The Hague Convention worked in the end even if it didn’t work as it’s supposed to.  The Convention seeks to return abducted children to their rightful home within 60 days; this took something like four years during which time Jack had very little contact with his father.  All in all, the case is a win for the rule of law, for Derek, whose rights have been vindicated, and most importantly for Jack, who will now get to have a continuing relationship with his father.

As to Mary, because she refused to obey an Irish court order, she’s now been held in contempt of court there.  If she returns to see Jack, she risks jail, although my guess is that the court wouldn’t punish her unduly.  But I wonder if she ever ponders the consequences of her actions.  Does she understand that, solely because she did what she did, Jack lost huge amounts of vital time with his father and has begun to lose time with his mother?  Who’s the winner here, Mary?  Who benefited from your violation of international law?  Not Derek, not you and certainly not Jack.  So what was the point?

I don’t know if Mary asks herself those questions, but this article certainly doesn’t (NBC Chicago, 7/10/12).  The pro-Mom/anti-Dad slant of the piece would be astonishing if it weren’t so common.

With his mother in tears, a 5-year-old boy caught in an international custody battle followed court orders and boarded a plane Tuesday night to be reunited with his father in Ireland.

“I’m shattered. My heart is breaking. I have to say goodbye to my son and I don’t know when I’ll see him again,” said Mary Redmond.

So we start with tears and broken hearts, but no hint of how that came to pass, no suggestion that Mary Redmond is the sole cause of her own unhappiness or Jack’s.  Indeed, you can read every word of the article and never know that Mary Redmond violated the law by abducting her son for the sole purpose of denying Jack’s father any opportunity to be with him.  All things considered, it’s quite a journalistic feat.  After all, to write an article about an international child abduction case without ever mentioning abduction takes real effort.  Here’s how the writer, Lauren Jiggets, managed it:

Her son, Jack Redmond, was born in Illinois and raised here for all but a few months of his life. His parents were never married, but his Irish father filed for joint custody after the couple split.

All of that is true, and it’s all misleading.  Yes, Jack live in Illinois most of his life and yes, he lived in Ireland for only about seven months.  But Jiggets carefully leaves out the most important points that (a) his mother abducted him from Ireland which was (b) the only home he’d ever known at the time and that fact meant that (c) Ireland had jurisdiction of the case and (d) Ireland was his home under the plain terms of the Hague Convention.  Funny how that happened.

And, speaking of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, Jiggets carefully refrains from mentioning the treaty whose terms controlled the outcome of the case.  After all, to do so would be to alert readers that Mary Redmond had abducted a seven month old boy.  And Jiggets apparently didn’t want that, so her only references to the Convention appears thus:

Jack has dual citizenship and Irish courts and The Hague ordered that he be returned to Ireland.

Well, The Hague, being a city in the Netherlands, did no such thing, so readers were given no clue about the meaning of that last sentence.  At the very end of her piece, Jiggets quotes Derek’s lawyer saying “That is why we have the Hague Convention,” but again refuses to explain what the “Hague Convention” is or what it has to do with this case.

Finally, as seems usually to be the case, Lauren Jiggets, having practically asked her readers to weep with Mary Redmond, failed to pick up the telephone and call Derek Redmond.  Indeed, although the man has a name, it never made it into her article any more than a single word from him did.  Again, if you’re writing a piece that’s radically pro-mother and anti-father, that’s what you do.  You tell readers about Mom’s heartbreak while silencing the dad entirely.  Did he have any emotional upset during the four years his son was kidnapped in the States?  I bet he did, but Jiggets was careful not to risk telling readers about that.

Jiggets’ piece is bad journalism regardless of its antipathy for Derek Redmond.  It gives no hint about what actually occurred in the case that led to Mary Redmond losing her son.  I had to talk to Derek’s lawyer, David Schaffer, just to find out basic information about the case.  But it goes beyond bad journalism and well into the realm of advocacy, in this case on the side of a mother who abducted a little boy and against a father who wanted nothing but to be a parent to his son.  Shameful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *