Reunited mum owes £38,000 in legal fees

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A campaign to help a Driffield area mother to pay the costs of bringing her three abducted children back home is under way.

It has started on the GoFundMe crowd funding website on behalf of the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, under the pseudonym Nicola Hennessy.

The first few hundred pounds have now been pledged towards a target of £50,000.

Zoe Atkinson, the Driffield lawyer with Williamsons Solicitors, who led Nicola’s bid to be reunited with her three young sons after they had been taken to Afghanistan, said that the mother owed thousands of pounds in legal fees, flights and other costs. She was legally aided for the proceedings in this country, but not for those abroad.

“It has been a long and difficult search and legal fight, but not without cost,” said Miss Atkinson.

“We have set up the fund-raising campaign to try to help Nicola overcome the financial aspect of the ordeal she and the children have endured.”

Campaigners plan to develop a wide-ranging effort – from targeting MPs and the government to involving community organisations.

Miss Atkinson contacted an American lawyer, Kim Motley, based in Afghanistan, who agreed to take on the case after hearing about Nicola’s predicament.

Assisted by London-based barristers, Miss Atkinson applied for High Court orders asking the authorities in Afghanistan to help Ms Motley to find the children and return them home.

Nicola faces legal bills of around £30,000 and owes more than £8,000 to the UK government for flights, although they have waived the right to add interest while it remains unpaid.

“Kim Motley did an outstanding job, working tirelessly for months, and it was a triumph for her when she boarded the plane with the children to bring them back where they belong,” said Miss Atkinson.

“She has kept in touch since to see how they are settling and we really hope the fundraising campaign will enable Nicola to settle this bill and other costs.

“Otherwise she and her young family will be trying to make their way with this huge debt hanging over them.”

Crucial to the successful outcome was that the mother qualified for legal aid for the work undertaken by Williamsons in this country.

Nicola said: “I feared I would never see my children again and I am very grateful to everyone who has worked so hard to bring them back to me and are ready to help me through the tough struggle to meet the costs involved.”

Nicola and the children’s father had married in 2001, and lived in London for more than ten years.

But the relationship broke down in February 2013 when he told her he wanted her to leave their home - and subsequently drove her all the way to her parents’ home in East Yorkshire where he left her.

He later took the children to Afghanistan with the help of his own family members - despite a court order preventing him from taking them out of the country.

An England and Wales Family Court judgment, recently put on the public record, made child arrangements in favour of the mother and put an exclusion order on the children’s.

The father, who was educated in Hull and still has friends in the city, is now serving a five-and-a-half year jail sentence for three counts of child abduction.

He is also banned entering the East Riding of Yorkshire although he is allowed indirect contact.

To support Nicola, go to: gofundme.com/v2ar3h9s