Princess Haya bint Al Hussein, daughter of the late King of Jordan and the youngest wife of the multi-billionaire ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, has issued wardship proceedings in respect of her children in the Family Division of the High Court. Since the Jordanian Princess fled to London in May 2019, she and her children have been living in an £85 million town house in Kensington. The Princess is seeking a Forced Marriage Protection Order in respect of her children and a Non-Molestation Order against her estranged husband. The Sheikh is seeking an order for the return of their children to Dubai. The hearing commenced on 30 July 2019.
This very high profile case is being heard by the President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane, and both parties are represented by magic circle lawyers - Baroness Fiona Shackleton for the wife and Lady Helen Ward for the husband. The case has attracted a huge amount of publicity due to the identity and huge wealth of the parties involved, although both parties have stressed that the case concerns the welfare of their children and not the division of the assets of their marriage. A lot of concern has also been raised about the circumstances surrounding the alleged attempts by two of the Sheikh’s daughters by other marriages, Sheikha Shamsa and Sheikha Latifa, to flee from Dubai and their alleged enforced return to that country.
The Sheikh tried to persuade the High Court that reporting restrictions should be imposed. Sir Andrew decided that the identity and even gender of the couple’s children should be protected, but it was in the public interest that information about the court proceedings should be reported in very broad terms.
There is a tension between parties’ rights to privacy (especially when proceedings concerning children are involved) and encouraging openness and transparency in relation to the family courts. Journalists have a presumptive right to attend family court proceedings, although judges can exclude the media from family court hearings and are able to limit what journalists are able to report. This case has also highlighted the increased use of Forced Marriage Protection Orders in the UK. These orders were introduced by the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007. The 2007 Act allows the court to prohibit forced marriages from taking place and to protect victims of forced marriage that have already taken place.
The case is continuing.