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August 28, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

As an old song once said, “it’s a sign of the times.” Surely this story gives us some idea of the misplaced values and downright strangeness of the times we live in (Brisbane Times, 8/23/13). It’s yet another in the seemingly endless consequences of an Australian mother’s abduction of her four daughters from Italy four years ago. I’ve written about the case many times and will again, if what I’m hearing lately comes to light. But more of that as events in the case unfold as they continue to do.

The most recent item tells us that a Murdoch-owned (who else?) newspaper, the Courier-Mail, has pleaded guilty to four violations of the Family Law Act. The tabloid admits guilt because it published the photographs and the names of the four girls. That’s forbidden by the Act and, although I personally disagree with the secrecy with which the law enshrouds family matters, the law is the law and the Courier-Mail plainly broke it. I promise you I’m not losing sleep over any hardships visited on Rupert Murdoch.

No, what interests me is that the paper’s publication of the girls’ names and photographs is the single instance of wrongdoing Australian authorities seem to think has occurred in the case. At least it’s the only violation anyone’s been held accountable for, and therein lies the cause of my astonishment.

You remember the case of the four girls. Their mother, Laura Garrett, abducted them from the only country they’d ever lived in — Italy — and took them to Australia, directly contravening the rights of their Italian father, Tommaso Vincenti. That’s a violation of numerous laws of Italy, Australia and of international treaties. Was she punished? No. In fact, Australian courts went out of their way to reward her behavior. As but one extreme example, Australian authorities refused to allow Vincenti to have custody of his children and return them to Italy until the Italian police agreed to not prosecute Garrett for her crime. That’s pretty special treatment for anyone, much less an apparent felon.

Then of course there are Garrett’s mother, grandmother and aunts. Once Australian courts had ascertained that all Garrett’s claims about abuse by Vincenti were false and that she’d violated international law, they determined to return the children to Italy. And, lo and behold, the girls vanished, and supposedly no one knew where they’d gone. Of course Garrett’s maternal relatives knew perfectly well where they were because they were the ones who’d sequestered them. They then gilded the lily by lying to the police and courts about their frank violation of the court’s order. Were they punished in any way? No.

What about Garrett’s parental alienation of the girls? During their almost three years in Australia the kids went from speaking lovingly of their father and wishing to see and be with him, to loathing the very thought of him. That was all on public display as they had to be literally dragged kicking and screaming to the airplanes that were to take them back to Italy. Parental alienation is child abuse, but did anyone suggest that Garrett’s parental rights should be limited due to either her abduction of the children or her alienation of them? No.

For that matter, what about the behavior of the Australian Embassy staff in Rome? Documents recovered by more than one media source make it pretty clear that those employees of the Australian government knowingly colluded with Garrett in her abduction of the girls. They not only ignored the usual protocols that include verifying Garrett’s claims of abuse and the voluntariness of Vincenti’s agreement to allow them to go in the first place, but even took part in altering Garrett’s travel plans in order to fool Vincenti into thinking they intended to return. Has anyone in the embassy been held to account for conspiring with Garrett to violate the law and deny Vincenti access to his children and they to him? No.

Libel, slander, defamation of character? For years now, Garrett and her various female relatives have called Vincenti an abuser despite there being not a shred of evidence for the proposition. They did so in court and out, for the sole purpose of depriving him of his children and they of their father. Have they paid a price for their plainly wrongful conduct? No.

Perjury? See above. Garrett claimed under oath that Vincenti abused her and the children, but produced no evidence of it and her allegations are in fact false. Has she been held accountable or even charged? No.

Indeed, from the minute Laura Garrett began hatching her plot to kidnap her children, there has been wrongdoing by multiple parties and Australian authorities seem to be fine with all of it. But when photographs of four girls are printed in the paper along with their names, alarm bells sound and the police come running.

And, speaking of the press, where were authorities in the early days of the scandal when newspapers and television alike vied with each other to present Tommaso Vincenti as exactly what Laura Garrett claimed — a vicious abuser? They were nowhere to be found. Again, when it comes to publishing factual information about the girls, not a letter of the law can be violated. But uncritically repeating lies about an innocent and loving father raised nary an eyebrow.

For months, the Australian press portrayed Vincenti as a heartless and cruel abuser. Just to make sure they couldn’t receive any evidence that contradicted that false narrative, not a single reporter picked up the telephone and contacted Vincenti to get his side of things. As we see so often in other parts of the world, the Australian news media prefer their fathers voiceless. Mothers? That’s a different story. As surely as they muzzled Vincenti, they gave Garrett her own stage and microphone. Finally, Vincenti managed to get his written statement partially covered by the press.

The father saw his children three times last week and released a statement on Thursday hitting out at the “negative description of me [which] has been presented unilaterally, untruthfully and knowingly distorted by the media.

“As a result I now feel the urgent need to state that I am a father completely different from that which has been published and repeated about me.

“The Italian courts and any other justice system are aware that I am a model father. No evidence has been presented to any courts which supports the unfounded and incorrect allegations made against me.”

Oh, that. Who knew that journalists are supposed to get their facts straight? Who’d have guessed that getting the other side of the story is something that’s supposed to be second nature to the press? You couldn’t tell it by the coverage accorded Vincenti and the kidnapping of his children.

So what have been the consequences to the members of the press who violated every elementary rule of their profession in order to trash one man’s reputation and promote the criminal and civil wrongdoing of his former wife? None whatsoever. Has anyone been fired, demoted? No. For that matter, has the management of those publications even noticed the outrageous pro-mother/anti-father bias that drenched every article on the case for months? If they have, it’s only been privately.

So yes, I suppose the Courier-Mail did wrong when it published the forbidden facts, but at least they were facts. So much of the rest of the early coverage was the fictional narrative of a criminal, Laura Garrett, bent on avoiding accountability for her many legal violations. I see a certain irony in punishing the former but not the latter.

It’s a sign of the times. The most heinous deprivation of parental rights, the violation of many criminal and civil laws, perjury, child abuse by a mother and libelous coverage by the press, all are given a pass. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along. But by far the least serious infraction of law by the Courier-Mail brings swift retribution. It’d be amazing if it weren’t so common.

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#Australia, #Italy, #Murdoch, #Courier-Mail, #LauraGarrett

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