Melinda Stratton: Another Holly Ann Collins?

The following news reports are a little about Melinda’s story. Most of it of course is admitted because section 121 of the Family Law withholds mother and children from speaking about their experiences.

Human Rights cannot intervene in Family Law cases and specialists outside the family court are often perceived below the Family courts psychologists’ expertise, regardless of level of experience or forensic evidence.

If they find Melinda, she will be jailed and her son will be punished for the crime of disobeying a law that disregards the basic human rights of children and their mothers.

Like Ann-Louise Valette,

she is one of many mothers who have lost faith in the system to protect the children and taken the only choice available to her.

For Ann, we created a

Petition based on the facts that were presented on which the reaction of the father had given us more of a reason to be concerned.

Some of the comments

on the petition became even more of a reason why this system is at fault of betraying the children they are supposed to be considering the best interest for:

"I did the same myself many years ago, because the court system failed to protect the children and myself.

The system asks us to come forward and they will help protect our children, yet once they find out truth, they give the children to the same abuser.

It defies logic.

However, the reason is that violence is rewarded, as it creates money and jobs"

"I was persecuted by a rapist using the secret family courts as a means of stalking me for SEVEN YEARS! The so called child protection/family courts are hurting children. For God's sake, leave this woman and her children alone - this persecution of women and children is disgusting. The secret family courts want abolishing, they are nothing more than money spinners for greedy lawyers and professional "experts" - expert swindlers, in my opinion!"

"This situation is happening regularly.

It is well researched and documented.

Child protection is an impossibility for most protective parents in the family courts."

"he is just protecting her children, any normal person could see that, I am doing the same thing at present, but I was also labelled as 'crazy' by my ex's family and told that I had a mental health problem. They reported me to Child Protection saying that I was going to kill myself and my children, well, it has been 6 years since my kids have had any contact with their father and they are alive and well other than suffering from the effects of the abuse he dealt. Leave this poor woman alone!"

"I work for womens refuge and am a lay adviser for a M P i want the treatment of women and children to be improved in these cases. Do not hound this pople protect them. Some countries are in the Dark ages with D/V and Child abuse Listen to the children for gods sake."

"It's about time allegations of sexual abuse and domestic violence were taken seriously. spare a thought too for the woman in Adelaide this week who was sentenced to 2 years for failing to protect her child from domestic violence - moreoffenders need to be held to account?"

"Given the ridiculous standard set for the proof of sexual abuse, police's unwillingness to report it and the courts' aggressive unwillingness to hear it, what this woman did was the only way she had to protect the kids. I hope she and the kids remain under the radar of the law until the law gets a grip and faces reality."

"I also had to run with my children because of abuse that the system chose to ignore. my children are now safe but have ongoing issues because of the trauma that their father inflicted.

This is definitely something that has to be looked into more closely."

The Media:

Mother accused of abducting child says 'courts failed her'

By Jayne Margetts

Original Article

Anyone who recognizes Andrew Thompson or his mother should not approach them. (Supplied)

A woman who fled the country with her four-year-old son to avoid a custody hearing has made contact with Australia for the first time in nine months.

In a letter to The Australian newspaper, Melinda Stratton says she left the country because the family courts failed her.

The boy's father, NSW Fire Brigade Deputy Commissioner Ken Thompson, says his son Andrew was abducted and he has launched an international campaign to find him but despite his efforts both at home and abroad, the trail has gone cold.

"I've almost learnt to live for the past 12 months in a constant state of stress and anxiety. I have no idea where my son is; I have no idea where my wife is," he said.

Ms Stratton fled to Germany with the four-year-old boy in April last year, while the couple were in the middle of a custody battle.

Mr Thompson says his estranged wife has a mental condition.

"She'd formed a belief that I was harming Andrew in some way. I knew that belief was wrong," he said.

Now Ms Stratton has written to The Australian newspaper explaining why she left. In the letter she refers to "the appalling failure of the Family Law Court and Child Protection Services".

"I have clearly lost faith in any form of justice coming out of Australia. By remaining silent, however, I ensure that they can continue to treat other mothers and children this way," the letter continues.

A specialist in family law and child protection, Patrick Parkinson, says since reforms were introduced in 2006, the Family Court must consider allowing equal access to both parents in a custody dispute.

"The court must at least consider equal time and it must at least consider time which is during the school week and not at the weekends and in school holidays," he said.

But family lawyer Sally Nicholes say that does not make the law biased in favour of fathers.

"I do not believe that they're going to have any more chance of having shared care or more access than they would in the past," she said.

The Australian Federal Police and Interpol are investigating Andrew Thompson's alleged abduction and a warrant has been issued for his mother's arrest.

Anyone who recognises Andrew Thompson or his mother should not approach them because Ms Stratton may pose a danger to herself and her son. People are asked instead to contact police.

DOCS urges fugitive mother to return

By Caroline Overington From: The Australian Original Article

THE head of the NSW Government's international kidnap response team has urged Sydney businesswoman Melinda Stratton to return to Australia with her four-year-old son before she is caught by Interpol or foreign police.

Ms Stratton, who is the wife of NSW deputy fire chief Ken Thompson, fled Australia with their son Andrew last April, during a Family Court dispute.

Mr Thompson has launched an international campaign with posters placed on bus stops, billboards and the internet in an attempt to find his son.

The Australian yesterday published excerpts from a letter written by Ms Stratton on January 15. It is the first known contact she has had with Australia since she took Andrew.

Ms Stratton said she had heard about Mr Thompson's campaign to track her down but would not return because she had lost faith in the Family Court system.

In a letter to Ms Stratton sent to her last known email address and her family members, the kidnapping response team offers a second opinion on custody matters from "an independent expert who is fully recognised by the Family Court of Australia".

It says the expert "will be appointed in full consultation with the mother".

"The process can be started with (Ms Stratton) putting forward the names of experts she considers would be suitable," it says.

The letter says Andrew should be returned voluntarily. If not, "it is quite likely the mother and child will be located through other means".

"A life constantly on the move is not in Andrew's interests," it adds. "When families cannot reach agreement in custody matters, the judicial process is the only way to resolve the issue."

Child welfare expert Freda Briggs of the University of South Australia said mothers often fled as a last resort but she did not condone kidnapping.

"Melinda's son will have been traumatised by the fact that he was removed from home, his toys, his friends and relatives very suddenly and secretly and taken to a country with a different language," Professor Briggs said. "If they are located, the child will be subjected to further trauma. From other recent cases, he is likely to be literally snatched from the mother by police in the early hours of the morning and placed in a secure detention centre.

"He will be deprived of contact with his mother before being put on a flight to Sydney accompanied by strangers. He could be then placed in foster care -- again with strangers -- and sent to a new school or kindergarten. He may have as many as four foster homes before the case is resolved in the Family Court.

"If the mother returns with him she can be arrested ... which won't help him at all.

"Mothers who run with their children are usually caught because it is difficult to change your identity, especially if you have no money. They leave their cars, bank accounts, possessions, relatives and supporters behind and can't contact them because they believe that federal police will be tapping their phones and emails."

Ms Stratton has made serious allegations about Mr Thompson, which he strenuously denies.

He provided The Australian with a letter from the NSW Department of Community Services' Joint Investigation Response Team which says he has no case to answer.

"As you are aware, information was reported to DOCS regarding your son and Andrew was interviewed as a result of this interview," the letter says.

"The police are suspending this matter ... and DOCS/JIRT are closing this case (and) will not be having further contact with your family."

Mr Thompson said it was reassuring to know that Andrew was alive and well.

"I know she will be caring for him, feeding him, clothing and sheltering him, but I believe she is doing him emotional damage," he said.

Defiant: mother tells why she took her son and ran

Original Article

Caroline Overington | February 02, 2009

Article from: The Australian

MELINDA Stratton is a woman on the run. In April last year, she fled Australia with her four-year-old son, Andrew, to avoid a custody hearing in the Family Court.

In December, her husband, NSW deputy fire chief Ken Thompson, asked the court to lift a ban on identifying Andrew so he could launch an international campaign to find the boy.

Photographs of Andrew are now plastered on buses in Europe, and on billboards in England. Mr Thompson has launched a website, and a group email has gone around the world, urging people to contact Interpol if they see Ms Stratton.

Ms Stratton - a professional woman from Sydney's northern suburbs, who has an MBA, speaks French and German, and has lived and worked abroad - has so far managed to dodge the authorities, but yesterday emerged from seclusion to tell her side of the story.

A 10-page letter - the first contact between Ms Stratton and anyone outside her immediate family since last April - was provided to The Australian with no identifying marks. It was dated January 15.

Ms Stratton says she had no choice other than to flee Australia, because she had lost faith in the Family Court.

She says the balance of the court - once firmly in favour of granting custody to mothers - had tipped dramatically towards fathers. The Howard government's regime of "shared parenting" had given power to fathers at the expense of mothers.

"I have lost all faith in any form of justice coming out of Australia," Ms Stratton says.

"By remaining silent, however, I ensure that they (the Family Court) can continue to treat other mothers and children this way."

Ms Stratton does not say where she is hiding, but adds: "Currently, my son is well and happy.

"I spent $30,000 on court proceedings. I have been told I will receive harsh penalties as 'punishment' for leaving from the Family Court.

"I am in my 40s. My son is only four. His welfare and future are my priority.

"The decision to break all contact with my family and friends, leave my job and our home was not taken lightly.

"I also understand that the Family Court could take my son away from me and give Ken full custody of him, again as punishment."

The battle between Ms Stratton and Mr Thompson for access to Andrew is complex and bitter.

She says he suffers from depression and anxiety. He says he suffered from "mild anxiety" when his first marriage ended 20 years ago.

"It was nothing more than mild anxiety," he says.

"It was a very difficult time, but it was also a very long time ago."

When he launched his campaign to find Andrew, Mr Thompson said that his former wife had a "mental condition". On his blogs, he says she is "paranoid" and that she may harm Andrew rather than return him to Sydney.

Ms Stratton says she has "no mental problems whatsoever".

Ms Stratton has made more serious allegations against Mr Thompson but The Australian is constrained by law from publishing them. She made the allegations in December 2007, left the family home in January last year, and the country in April.

Mr Thompson strenuously denies his wife's claims, saying she "made all kinds of allegations ... the psychologists have said there is no reason to even investigate them".

Ms Stratton says the court psychologist is biased against mothers. She points to papers presented by Family Court practitioners in which they say that mothers can make up allegations of abuse and that children can be manipulated by their mothers to say they have been abused.

The identity of the psychologist is protected by the Family Law Act (1975).

The Family Court ignored Ms Stratton's complaints and ordered her to make their son available for supervised contact with his father three or four times a week.

She complied only a few times before fleeing.

Her move was not unprecedented: although there have been some high-profile cases of men leaving Australia with their children - such as in the case of Canadian mother Melissa Hawach, whose two children were taken to Lebanon by their Sydney-based father and freed by mercenaries - it is overwhelmingly the mother who flees.

According to the Attorney-General's Department, more than 120 children were abducted and taken out of Australia last year. In 75 per cent of cases, the mother was suspected of taking the children.

Mr Thompson said his former wife should return to Australia. "I'm not the one who has run away from the court," he said. "I'm the one who took court action.

"She's decided that the police were wrong, the courts were wrong, the psychologists are wrong, and she's right.

"If she's right, I don't understand why she doesn't come back and see the matter through in the Family Court.

"What kind of country do we live in if people can disagree with what the court says, and just take off?"

The AFP is conducting a criminal investigation into Andrew's abduction and subsequent disappearance.

Interpol has also issued alerts for Ms Stratton and Andrew in 187 countries.

The Family Court publication order warns anyone recognising Ms Stratton or her son not to approach them and to instead pass the information on to police.