A father who has repeatedly defied court orders to return his children to the UK from the Middle East after abducting them five years ago has been jailed for a year by a High Court judge.
Former bank clerk Usama Al Barwani, who lives in Portsmouth, took his daughter Aishah and son Faris to live with his relatives in Oman in July 2012 following the breakdown of his relationship with their mother.
Their ‘desperate’ mother Lacey Plato, who is in her 30s and also from Portsmouth, has been fighting a lengthy legal battle in a bid to be re-united with her children, who are now aged 12 and nine.
At a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London, Mrs Justice Theis ruled that Al Barwani had committed ‘serious’ and deliberate breaches of orders relating to the return of his children to England, and sentenced him to immediate imprisonment for 12 months for contempt of court.
She said: ‘I am satisfied that through the actions of this father, he has deprived these very young children, now aged 12 and nine, of having any meaningful contact or relationship with their mother for a period of five years.’
The judge described it as a ‘tragic and sad case’ and told the father: ‘It is perhaps difficult to imagine a more damaging and harmful act for a parent to do to his children.’
She rejected his claim that it was not within his power to return the children as he was ‘controlled by his own father in relation to that’.
Al Barwani has already served a prison sentence after being convicted of abduction. He was released last November after serving half of a four-year jail term imposed by a crown court judge.
His latest prison sentence follows a successful application by Miss Plato at the High Court for Al Barwani, who is also in his 30s, to be committed to prison for contempt.
Her barrister, Jacqueline Renton, told Mrs Justice Theis that the father’s actions were ‘cruel and heartless’, had deprived the children of their mother for five years and would have life-long consequences.
Ruling in favour of Miss Plato, the judge said: “The breaches could not be more serious and are part of a course of conduct of repeated breaches of court orders.
‘I am quite satisfied that these breaches are so serious that they require and demand an immediate custodial sentence.’
It is open to Al Barwani to seek his release by ‘purging’ his contempt, but the judge emphasised that he would have to show that there were ‘concrete plans’ for the return of the children.
During previous hearings of the litigation, other High Court judges have described Al Barwani as a ‘shameless liar’ who has let his children down ‘appallingly’.
One said it was rare that a court was faced with a father who could behave so ‘wickedly’.