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man repairing girl bike smallMay 1, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

The case of Tommaso Vincenti and his ex-wife, Laura Garrett has again forced itself onto center stage. Vincenti is the Italian man who married the Australian, Laura Garrett. They lived in his native Florence for many years and had four daughters together. At one point, Garrett decided to kidnap the children to Australia and, with the assistance of the Australian Embassy in Rome, did just that. Vincenti pursued his legal remedies under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction that mandate an expeditious return to the abducted child's country of usual residence.

But, as is so often the case, the Australian courts showed astonishing deference to Garrett, despite the fact that she'd violated both Australian and Italian criminal laws. It took some three years for them to rule in the case, not what most people would call expeditious. That was true even though the only issue in the case was (or should have been) whether Italy was the girls' usual country of residence. Once that matter is decided, the Hague Convention foresees that any claim of abuse against the left-behind parent should be adjudicated in the country of the children's residence. Given the fact that the Vincenti girls had never lived anywhere but Italy, it was clear in their case what their country of residence was. In short, the case should have been over and done with in a matter of weeks and the children returned to Italy. Had Garrett wanted to bring allegations of abuse before authorities there, she could easily have done so.

Unfortunately for Tommaso and his daughters, Australian courts dithered with the case for three years before doing what they should have done at the outset. In the mean time, Vincenti was forced to spend over 100,000 euros in pursuit of justice. Not only that, but Garrett and her various female relatives (mother, grandmother and assorted aunts) lied relentlessly to the courts, claiming, among other things that Tommaso was abusive toward Garrett and the girls, that Garrett had reported the abuse to Italian authorities who had turned a blind eye to the whole thing and that an Italian psychologist corroborated the abuse.

Not a word of it was true. Eventually, Australian courts got around to asking for the Italian records of Garrett's claims only to learn that there were none because she'd never reported them to Italian police or courts. The psychologist submitted a sworn affidavit that she'd never found the girls to have been abused.

So, having been proven to be consistent and inveterate liars, and faced with the removal of the girls to Italy and their father's care, Garrett and her relatives abducted them again. This time they took the children into hiding somewhere in Australia and, incredibly, informed Australian authorities that they had no idea of their whereabouts.

Of course the girls were finally found and returned to Italy, but throughout the whole outrageous affair, the Australian news media demonstrated a gullibility about Garrett's countless lies that one might reasonably expect of a pre-school child. For years, most reporters on the case simply recycled Garrett's claims of abuse without the slightest skepticism. It apparently occurred to none of them that, if she had been truly concerned about abuse by Vincenti, Garrett could have turned to Italian police, courts and child welfare officials for help. But such is the nature of pro-mother bias in the media that none did. Even a little effort - a long-distance call or two, for example - on the part of a single reporter would have at the very least raised questions about Garrett's veracity. But no, the whole story fit too neatly into the pre-written narrative of maternal virtue and paternal brutality and corruption for anyone to actually make an effort to verify facts. Such is the nature of "journalism" today.

Now it turns out they didn't even have to make a long-distance call or make arrangements for an Italian translator. Persuasive evidence of Garrett's willingness to lie under oath was in fact ready to hand. It seems that, when she was but a lass of 14, she and her mother concocted a scheme to defraud the Australian taxpayers out of some $20,000 Australian. And guess what else. The scheme involved lying about abuse by a man.

Back in 1994, Laura and her mother Kate had an adult male friend named Colin Vaughan Palmer. He was a process server for the local courts and visited the Garrett household frequently in his off hours. He may have done so sometimes while Kate was away at work and Laura was home alone. To the mind of Kate Garrett, Palmer was less a nice man and friend of the family than he was a money-making opportunity. In due course, Laura accused him of coming to their house, taking her for a drive, fondling her breasts, taking her to his house, attempting to rape her and in fact digitally penetrating her. These events she claimed to have happened on July 4 of that year.

She didn't get around to reporting them until August 18th for reasons that remain unexplained, but eventually, Palmer was convicted of seven counts of sexual abuse and sentenced to prison where he served two years.

But there was a problem with Laura's claims of abuse; it never happened. That's because Palmer had an alibi; he'd been working that day and in fact during the very times Garrett was claiming to be in his company. Palmer had to keep records of whom he served with process, when and where. His affidavits become a necessary part of the records when courts attempt to enforce tax judgments against citizens, because it has to be clear that the defendants have received notice of the lawsuit against them. In short, Palmer had an alibi. He proved that he was elsewhere at the times Garrett claimed he was abusing her. The High Court in Canberra overturned Palmer's conviction and ordered his acquittal.

But Kate and Laura Garrett had already cashed in. Because Laura had been ruled to be a victim of sexual abuse, the government paid Kate $20,000 Australian on her behalf, only $6,000 of which ever found its way from mother to daughter.

So it comes as no surprise that, once she'd abducted her children to Australia on false allegations of violence, Laura immediately started claiming monetary recompense from the Australian government. She got it too, to the tune of about $900 a month. It seems clear that Laura learned at an early age that lying about abuse by a man can be a lucrative enterprise and that Australian authorities won't look too closely at your claims. And, if your lie is eventually found out, no one will do anything about it. No wonder she kidnapped her kids to Australia; as far as Garrett could see, there was no down side to doing so.

Will Australian authorities ever wake up and charge this woman with the multiple felonies she's committed? She's abducted children twice, lied almost without stopping, often as not under oath. She's presented false claims of abuse to Australian police and defrauded taxpayers of significant sums of money. Is all of that simply OK? Is there any criminal act a mother can commit that police, prosecutors and courts there won't overlook?

At least part of the Australian news media have finally figured it out. The TV news magazine, 60 Minutes Australia, has already done one broadcast thoroughly excoriating Laura and Kate Garrett and it's about to do another. The rest of them seem to have gone into their collective shells, apparently hoping their gross incompetence and gullibility in the matter will be forgotten. That way, the next mother who comes along with tears in her eyes and a shaky story on her tongue can be believed with the same willingness they accorded Laura Garrett. And the beat goes on.

But a little bird tells me this isn't the last we'll hear about this case that becomes more disgraceful with each passing month.

Here's my last post on the case with links to previous ones (Fathers and Families, 12/2/12). Here's the Canberra High Court's ruling in the Palmer case.

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The National Parents Organization is a non-profit organization that is educating the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents and extended families. If you would like to get involved in our organization, you can do so several ways. First, we would love to have you as an official member of the National Parents Organization team. Second, the National Parents Organization is an organization that believes in the importance of using social media as a means to spread the word about shared parenting and other topics, and you can visit us on our Facebook Page to learn more about our efforts. Last, we hope you will share this article with other families using the many social networking sites so that we can bring about greater awareness of shared parenting. Thank you for your support.

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