Pro Bono Story

Older sister secures return of vulnerable abducted siblings from the Philippines: Althea’s story

Althea's story

When Althea* realised that her two younger siblings had been abducted and taken to the Philippines by their mother and a convicted sex offender, she knew she would need specialist help to get them back.

The children, Isa* and Jasmine*, were British citizens, born in the UK to Filipino parents. Their father worked at sea and was away for months at a time, and their mother had begun a relationship with a man who had a criminal record, which resulted in serious safeguarding concerns.

Isa and Jasmine’s mother travelled abroad with the children, then aged only 4 and 7, but failed to care for them properly. From reports we received, it appears that the children were left in an unsafe rural environment, without clean drinking water or sunscreen. Eventually the mother abandoned them completely, leaving them with their aunts, without any explanation, financial support or plan for their future.

Fearing that they would suffer irreparable harm and hoping to bring them back to London with her, Althea travelled 6,500 miles to try to rescue them, but was only allowed very brief contact.

The case was complicated because the children’s father was at sea when they were abducted and Althea, as their older sister, had no automatic right to apply to care for them. The local authority did nothing to assist their return, despite one of them being missing from school and a having a ‘child in need’ plan in place.

Over the course of 15 months, the Dads House Family Law Clinic saw Althea for 19 appointments, each lasting for one to two hours. Expert advice was provided for free by experienced lawyers including Simon Bruce, Veryan Exelby, William Hogg and Simon Miller, all of whom regularly help Dads House clients in the clinic.

Over 60 hours of support was provided by a caseworker and help was also provided by all our law students, who helped with providing urgent legal advice, drafting applications and statements, advising on evidence, and securing pro bono representation.

Due to the intricacies of the case, there were a total of nine hearings in the High Court and Althea had a number of different pro bono barristers representing her in every single hearing from Dads House’s Simon Miller, to barristers provided by Coram Chambers and even a   a KC from 4PB.

Despite the father’s work, he actively participated in the proceedings, many which he conducted from overseas with help of translator so he could have a say in how they were cared for.

In total, Althea received over £100,000 worth of solicitor, barrister and caseworker time including the appointments, advice on how to proceed, case preparation and representation in court. Dads House was thanked in court by all of the judges for their efforts to protect both of the children.

Simon Miller from Harcourt Chambers represented Althea in five of the nine hearings, and she said that he “showed me unwavering support from the start to the end. He has always had my best interests in mind and cared for my wellbeing as a client and a friend.”

Simon said: “This was, in my 27 years at the Family Bar, one of the more profound contributions I have made to securing the future of two vulnerable children”.

In the last hearing on 22 December 2023, the court gave Althea and her siblings the best Christmas present they could have asked for. Althea was unanimously praised by all the professionals and the courtroom was unusually full of emotion. There were not many dry eyes when Althea was given permission to become her siblings’ carer, and they were reunited as a family under the protection of the law.

*Names have been changed to protect anonymity

Dads House aim is to make sure children remain the priority after divorce, separation or bereavement. Find out more about the legal clinic and its other services at