Government can’t help mother in custody fight

By Charlotte Oliver, January 16, 2014
Beth Alexander with her sons

Beth Alexander with her sons

The Government has said it is unable to intervene to help Beth Alexander in her battle to gain custody of her children in the Austrian courts.

Speaking in the House of Commons this week, Minister of State for Europe David Lidington said that he felt “nothing but heartfelt sympathy” for Ms Alexander, but was restricted by the fact that the UK cannot interfere in the independent courts of another country.

Only if her lawyers could present “substantiated evidence of something having gone seriously wrong in the process” could the government consider taking a role.

Ms Alexander has been fighting for custody of her four-year-old twin sons since last August, and was last week denied the right to take the case to the Austrian Supreme Court.

She has already lost a hearing and an appeal over the boys, who live in Vienna with her Austrian ex-husband, Michael Schlesinger.

Ms Alexander has alleged the process has been tainted by corruption.

Her case was raised in Parliament by Blackley and Broughton MP Graham Stringer. Ms Alexander’s parents live in his constituency.

He requested that the government make representations to the authorities in Vienna, and to the Austrian ambassador to the UK, Emil Brix. He received support from MPs Ivan Lewis, Matthew Offord, and Mike Freer.

Mr Stringer described Ms Alexander’s case as “Kafkaesque”. He said: “I do not usually believe in conspiracies, but in this case the decisions that were taken were so strange that one has to suspect that undue influence and conspiracy were taking place”.

In his response, Mr Lidington acknowledged that it was a “deeply distressing case”.

He added: “If [Ms Alexander’s] lawyers advise that there are grounds for a diplomatic intervention that might be beneficial and could be substantiated by sufficient evidence, her legal team are welcome to put their representations to us again.”

Ms Alexander must now decide whether to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights, or face restarting proceedings in Vienna.

Last updated: 7:45pm, January 16 2014