'No unfairness occurred' in Italian sisters case: High Court
FOUR children involved in a highly-publicised, international custody battle were not denied a chance to have their voice heard throughout the case, the High Court found.
The mother fled with the girls to Australian from Italy in 2010 under the guise of a two-week holiday.
The father back in Italy activated his rights under the international child abduction treaty, The Hague Convention, and the Australian Family Court ordered the girls be returned to Italy to face custody proceedings.
That order was fought through the court system by the Sunshine Coast-based mother.
But her battle failed and Family Court Justice Colin Forrest ordered the girls be returned to Italy.
Australian Federal Police officers took the girls from a home on the Sunshine Coast and put them on a plane to Italy, where they were reunited with their father.
Earlier this year, high profile barrister applied to challenge the order in the High Court on behalf of the girls, arguing the children had been denied procedural unfairness.
On August 7 the High Court dismissed the challenge but only published its reasons on Wednesday.
The High Court found the girls had access to a family court consultant to have their views heard.
"The mother of the children had also had the opportunity to adduce evidence on the children's objections from a psychologist," the judgment read.
The High Court also rejected the notion "that resolution of questions about a child's objections always required separate legal representation for each child".
"... as this incorrectly assumed that a child would always have sufficient maturity to instruct a lawyer, and that only a lawyer could adequately determine the child's views," The High Court found.
The court found no practical unfairness occurred from the girls non-intervention in the case and no procedural fairness occurred either.