The Independent

Monday, August 23, 1999


The Independent

PENNY ALLEN, the former wife of the Booker prize winner Ian McEwan, is to seek protection from the French courts in her quest to keep the couple's 13-year-old son in France.

Ms Allen, who lives in France, has spent the last week on the run with the divorced couple's two children. She said she was determined to defy her husband's attempts to reclaim their youngest son. The eldest boy, 15, has voluntary gone back to his father.

Ms Allen's decision follows an Oxford County Court ruling this month granting Mr McEwan sole custody of both children. The deadline for thechildren's return expired last week. The couple divorced in 1995 and have been battling in the courts for custody of the children ever since.

Ms Allen said she would ask the French authorities to intervene because the Home Secretary and the Lord Chancellor had not inquired into the court's decision after she had made them aware of her concerns.

"If the British government is not prepared to act then I have no alternative but to seek help from the French," she said.

She said that if Mr McEwan instructed French police forcibly to return her son she would resist, and that she had deep reservations about him going back to England.

Ms Allen is to take legal advice to ascertain if the French authorities can help, butlawyers doubt whether her efforts will succeed.

Anne-Marie Hutchinson, chairwoman of the international child abduction charity Reunite, said both The Hague Convention and the European Convention placed an obligation on the French authorities to respect the order of the English court. "In these kind of cases, the authorities cannot look beyond the original court's decision."