The distraught mother with her daughters. The image has been distorted for legal reasons.
The distraught mother with her daughters. The image has been distorted for legal reasons.

Judge returns girls to mum

A SUNSHINE COAST mother fighting for custody of her four children has won a slight reprieve after a family court ordered her beloved daughters out of foster care and into her arms - for the time being.

The mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, submitted an application to the Family Court in Brisbane on Friday to have interim custody of her children, who were put into foster care after their mother defied a court order to return the girls to Italy where their father lives.

The mother and her four daughters fled Italy in 2010 because the girls' father was allegedly abusive.

The father has rigorously denied the accusations.

The girls went into hiding on the Sunshine Coast last month but when police found them in Buderim, they were placed into foster care.

Family Court Justice Peter Murphy granted the mother interim custody of the girls - aged between 9 and 14 - until their appeal was heard in the High Court next month.

But the reprieve did not come without harsh criticism from Justice Murphy about the way the mother and her family had handled the situation.

The family's plight has been highly publicised in the media, including in a News Limited newspaper, which illegally identified the girls on the front page.

A current affairs program also featured the children in a story.

Justice Murphy said the involvement of the children in the media was disgraceful.

"What this court saw these children being subjected to on a TV program, whoever was connected to it, should hang their heads in shame," he said.

The justice revealed a chilling letter from the youngest girl in which she threatened to commit self-harm if she remained in foster care.

"What frightens me is that these children, possibly because of what they have been subjected to, may do something stupid just to bring attention to themselves," Justice Murphy said.

"And that frightens the life out of me."

The great aunt's application to be appointed the case guardian, so the children could have a voice, was refused by the justice who said the girls' voice was "loud and clear" in the material he already had, including letters from the girls.

The father, through his barrister Michael Wilson, made a last-minute attempt to apply for interim custody of the girls.

The application caught the judge and the other legal representatives by surprise and was dismissed.
Justice Murphy also awarded the father access rights, including after school and weekend visits.

The Department of Community Services will transport the children from their mother's Sunshine Coast home to where their father is staying in Brisbane.

The matter will come before the High Court in August.

Judge slams custody media attention

THE judge presiding over a international custody battle has described as disgraceful the subjection of four children to the media.

The mother of the four girls is fighting for their custody in the Family Court.

The four girls were put into foster care after their mother defied a court order to send them back to Italy, where their father lives.

The case has made headlines across Queensland with the mother making multiple attempts through the justice system to keep them, including a High Court appeal scheduled to be heard next month.

Justice Murphy told the Family Court today the involvement of the children in the media was disgraceful.

"What this court saw these children being subjected to on a TV program, whoever was connected to it, should hang their heads in shame," he said.

Timothy North, barrister for the children's great aunt, whose application to be a case guardian was refused, said the children could be easily recognised due to the case's coverage.

In light of what has occurred, he explained, the children would be recognised at any school they went to.

Justice Murphy strongly agreed.

"When morons seek to involve children publicly ... this is what happens."

The judge questioned allowing the kids back into the care of their mother, who is part of a support network that allowed the exposure.

He also said a letter from one of the girls threatening to commit self-harm if she was forced to stay in foster care, "scared the life" out of him.

The father's barrister applied to have the girls in his custody at least until the High Court hearing concluded, but the judge dismissed the application.

The court heard the girls had not been at school since being in foster care and had expressed a desire to be back at home and school with their friends.

 

Mum fights for custody of girls

THE mother of four girls fighting extradition to Italy is back in court again fighting for custody of her daughters.

The mother, who cannot not be named for legal reasons, made headlines recently after defying a court order to send her four daughters back to Italy, where their father resides.

The mother took the four daughters  from their home in Italy to Australia in 2010 on allegations the father was abusive.

The father has denied the accusations.

The children are currently in foster care in Brisbane awaiting a High Court hearing that will determine whether they have the right to be heard and legally represented.

In the Family Court in Brisbane today the mother Is applying to have the girls taken out of foster care and into her care or their great aunt's care.

The legal counsel for the Department of Community Services argued the great aunt should not be involved in the application as her and the girls' mother are practically the same people.

The counsel said the judge could have no comfort that if the girls went into the care of the aunt and wanted to go back their father, that the aunt would follow that advice.

Barrister for the aunt, Timothy North, argued for his client's involvement and made an application to appoint the aunt as the case guardian so the girls could be heard.

Mr North said the girls were being denied a voice on orders that affected them.

Justice Murphy has adjourned the matter.

He will return with his decision on whether the aunt should be involved later this morning.



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