A WOMAN has been jailed after snatching her daughter in defiance of a court order and keeping her out of school for more than a year – spending part of the time selling flowers on the streets of Miami.
York Crown Court heard on Monday how the 38-year-old mother took the girl – then aged 12 – from Harrogate to Amsterdam, via the Channel Tunnel, in February last year.
The pair had gone on to St Petersburg before ending up in what the Crown called a run-down apartment block – though one said to have its own swimming pool and tennis court – in Florida.
The mother had pleaded guilty before Harrogate magistrates to taking a child under the age of 16 out of the United Kingdom without the consent of the father and without the leave of Harrogate County Court.
She had been sent for sentence at crown court, in custody, on May 13, two days after she had been arrested at Heathrow Airport following a period in a detention centre in Miami.
In a sitting of York Crown Court on Monday, Recorder Tahir Khan QC, was told by prosecutor Julie Harrow the girl had been abducted in February 2010 after her mother, a German national, had claimed to be taking her to visit a sick relative in her homeland.
Miss Harrow said the pair – neither of whom can be named for legal reasons – had gone through the Channel Tunnel and on to Amsterdam before making for Russia.
They had then flown to Miami where they spent time selling flowers at the side of the road. The girl had not attended school for more than a year.
When she was interviewed on her return to the UK the mother said she had lied about making a trip home to Germany. Her daughter had been excited by the idea of going to America.
Once in America the mother had worked initially as a nanny and had done other jobs before selling flowers.
She had intended to send the girl to school this summer because she thought that by then she would ‘‘have fallen below the radar’’.
The woman was said by her barrister Catherine Duffy to have been ‘‘misguided’’ in her actions which had come in defiance of an emergency order obtained by the girl’s father at Harrogate County Court.
Asking for leniency for the defendant, who had no previous convictions, Miss Duffy said she had spent three months in a detention centre in Miami and 38 days in custody since her magistrates’ court appearance.
Recorder Khan told the mother she had known what she was doing.
Her actions had been deliberately planned and executed, and she had laid a false trail to make it difficult for the authorities to track her down.
And the girl’s father must have gone through unimaginable worry.
Jailing her for nine months he said a deterrent sentence was necessary to discourage people from contravening court orders.