Published: 19:03, 10 September 2018
| Updated: 19:18, 10 September 2018
A baker who illegally took her children to live in Alaska with her new husband has been jailed for three-and-a-half-years.
Indea Ford, 34, thought to previously have lived in Maidstone, flouted family court orders to take her two young daughters aged four and five to the States in October 2015.
Under the order she was not allowed to take the children away without her ex's consent or permission - and her request to emigrate to the US had already been denied the year before.
After a three year relationship, she split with the children's father who cannot be named in 2012 and the relationship turned "acrimonious", Isleworth Crown Court heard.
There were a series of court hearings in the family court until Ford took the girls abroad without permission.
A family judge sitting in Dartford ruled the children would be looked after by their father on weekends and half of the summer holidays.
Prosecutor Jennifer Knight said: “Each parent informed the other if they intended to go on holiday. Sufficient notice was to be given of such a trip.
“The order set out clearly that it was a criminal offence to remove the children from the jurisdiction without written consent of every person with parental responsibility of the children or the leave of the court.
“There has been an acrimonious relationship between Indea Ford and the girl's father."
"She's a good mother, but her misguided actions caused her children hardship" - Lauren Soertsz
Prosecutors say it was Ford's intention to ‘sever the relationship’ between the girls and their father.
But the bakery owner claims she wanted to build a new life for them out in the States.
She pleaded guilty to two counts of child abduction on the first day of her trial today on Monday.
Lauren Soertsz, defending, told the court her client was "emotionally-led" when she refused to bring them back to the UK after two week holiday visiting her father in Virginia.
The defence counsel said: “Her decision not to board this flight was borne out of an honest belief that by remaining in America she was protecting her children.
“She wanted them to experience a conflict-free life, something that neither of them had had in their short lives.
"She's a good mother, but her misguided actions has caused her children hardship.
"She should have thought of this before she acted as she did.
"Emotions led her to take a misguided course. She sought to protect those children and ended up harming them and one can't escape from that consequence."
The court heard Ford has recently set up her own bakery business in the States.
During her time in custody she has become a peer mentor for drug-addicted lags and has been a 'model prisoner', according to her defence team.
Ford has not seen her two daughters or her youngest son with her new American husband since January, the court heard.
Recorder Gibson Grenfell QC, sentencing, said: "The original order had made it clear it was an offence to take the children out of the jurisdiction without certain conditions.
"Severance - that is to say severance from the girl's natural father - has been effected.
"The general thrust of the submissions were the difficulties between the parties and the unhappiness of their children.
"The children are, looking at the matter realistically, to be permanently out of the jurisdiction.
"Miss Ford has given no indication she's likely to being them back. There's been a severance of a relationship.
"The fact is the girls relationship with their father which had been maintained, even though they had been difficult, has been severed.
"In cases where court order has been flagrantly breached there must be a deterrent element of any sentence.
"A cynic may say that the defendant has effectively got what she set out to achieve - namely to keep the children in America permanently."
Mr Recorder Grenfell said although the defence had invited him to pass a sentence that would allow Ford to return to her children, it was not within his duty to do so.
He said: "I do not think it would be consistent with my duty nor in accordance with the facts in the case and the level of the defendants culpability to do so.
"The present case is in many ways unusual."
He said the appropriate starting point was four years and seven months but because of her early pleas, personal mitigation and family circumstances was reduced to three-and-a-half years.
The judge also ordered time spent in custody - both in the UK and US - and time spent under house arrest and electronically tagged in Alaska would be taken off as time served.
More by this authorKentOnline reporter