British mum who fled Canada with daughter spared jail after turning up in dinghy in Jersey three years later

Will Taylor
News Reporter
The teacher. (PA Images)

A British woman who went on the run with her and her wife’s child for three years before being found on a dinghy in Jersey has been spared jail.

The teacher, 34, originally from South Shields, took the then-19-month-old girl out of Canada in 2016 with her new male partner and their child and fled the country.

Reporting restrictions prevent any outlet publishing in Jersey from including details that identify the child.

The woman had separated from her Canadian wife in 2015 and the daughter lived with her while custody proceedings took place.

Police in Canada said a court ordered her to surrender the daughter’s British passport and prevent her for applying for a Canadian one.

The mum and daughter are known to have travelled to England, France, the Netherlands, the Middle East and possibly to Spain and Portugal, police said, despite Interpol issuing a red notice.

She was caught after arriving in Jersey with her parents in a 13ft inflatable dinghy – despite attempting to deceive immigration staff.

The teacher's parents. (PA Images)

Prosecutor Simon Crowder told the court that all three had tried to claim they were visiting Jersey to have lunch.

The three appeared in Jersey Magistrates’ Court for sentencing today, having pleaded guilty to making a false representation under immigration law.

The British teacher was convicted of two charges of exposing a child to risk of harm after a four-day trial at the court in December.

Her parents were convicted of two charges of aiding and abetting exposing a child to risk of harm. They were each given six-month prison sentences, suspended for 12 months, and fined £500.

They must also pay costs of £1,600 between them.

Assistant magistrate Peter Harris said: “These were rather unique circumstances which are unlikely to be repeated.

“Together they were using Jersey in an attempt to avoid compliance with a Canadian court order.”

He acknowledged the efforts made to reduce the risk of harm to the children, and that no harm was actually sustained.

But he added: “The waters around Jersey can be very dangerous.

“Both children were exposed to a risk of harm.”

St Catherine's Breakwater, close to where the teacher, her parents and her daughter arrived in Jersey in July 2019. (PA Images)

Sarah Dale, defending the teacher, said: “As you heard throughout the trial, [she] believed that she and also her parents had taken all relevant precautions to ensure the safety of the children during the crossing.

“[Her] children are the greatest importance in her life and whatever her motive for making that crossing, she was adamant that she would not do anything at all that she felt put them at risk or endangered them.”

The court heard that all three defendants were of previous good character.

Rui Tremoceiro, defending the parents, said: “They are good, hardworking, law-abiding people, people who have abided over several months by every condition imposed by this court, which included severe curtailment of their liberty for several months.”

Speaking last year, the estranged Canadian wife of the teacher, who is also a parent of the girl, said: “We came in this together united and I just cannot understand why you felt the need to do this.

“And it wasn't just to me, that's the thing, it's not just about me. The tsunami effect of this is incomprehensible.”

A lawyer for the Canadian said last year that a judge in British Columbia had declared the daughter a “habitual resident” of Canada.

But the Canadian said her attempt at getting her daughter back is complicated.

“Strictly speaking I may not fall within the definition of parent in Jersey, even though I am a legal parent and guardian of [the girl] here in Canada,” she said last year.