Sisters' court challenge rejected
UPDATE: A LAST ditch effort to save four Sunshine Coast sisters from removal to Italy in a bitter international custody battle has failed after the High Court ruled in the long-running case today.
The four girls are at the centre of a bitter battle between their parents in both Australian and Italian courts.
After a Family Court judge ruled in May that the four girls must be returned to their birth country for the Italian case, the siblings went missing.
A series of postponements and bids for reconsideration of the case in the Family Court resulted in little change in May, before a new application was filed on May 23 with the High Court.Tony Morris QC, acting on behalf of the siblings, argued the children had not been given "natural justice" in the Family Court case after the children were not given the option of legal representation.
But after interventions in the case by two state governments and the Commonwealth, Mr Morris yesterday conceded the case was "perhaps a long shot".
He said while it was a last resort for the four girls to stay in Australia, he still believed children had the right to be heard in court.
The full bench of the High Court ruled that the challenge had failed before ordering Mr Morris's client pay costs.
It is understood the reasons for the court's decision will be delivered at a later date.
The matter will now return to the Full Court of the Family Court for a final decision.
EARLIER: A HIGH Court challenge to have four Sunshine Coast sisters given their own legal standing in an international custody dispute has failed.
The aunt has today been ordered to pay legal costs.
The four girls, aged between nine and 15, were born in Italy and hold dual Italian-Australian citizenship.
In June 2010 the girls and their mother returned to Australia for what was meant to be a one-month holiday.
But they have been in the country ever since, and their father sought their return under The Hague Convention's anti-abduction provision.
The case escalated when the girls went into hiding with a relative.
In February 2011 the Queensland Department of Communities' Child Safety and Disability Services branch sought to force the girls' return under child abduction laws.
The Family Court had ordered the girls to be sent back to Italy.
The sisters were trying to stay with their mother in Australia after establishing a life on the Sunshine Coast.
The High Court case, which has been brought by the girls' aunt, hinged on an argument that the Family Court did not grant the siblings an opportunity for legal representation.
Arguments were heard by the full bench of the High Court this morning.