Kidnap charges against Bramleys are scrapped

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The Independent Online

Jeff And Jenny Bramley, the couple who defied social workers and went on the run for four months with their foster children, will not be tried for kidnapping, the High Court heard yesterday. The couple, who fled to Ireland on the day they were supposed to return the two girls to Cambridgeshire Social Services, have ended up with only a police caution after the charges against them were formally dropped.

Jeff And Jenny Bramley, the couple who defied social workers and went on the run for four months with their foster children, will not be tried for kidnapping, the High Court heard yesterday. The couple, who fled to Ireland on the day they were supposed to return the two girls to Cambridgeshire Social Services, have ended up with only a police caution after the charges against them were formally dropped.

They were due to stand trial in November but Mr Justice Jowitt quashed the indictment at the High Court. David Farrer QC, for the prosecution, said: "We believe that this represents the least damaging outcome to this unhappy story, [it] indicates that the abduction is not condoned and may help the Bramley household return to normality."

The Bramleys, from Ramsay, Cambridgeshire, sparked a nationwide hunt when they disappeared on 14 September 1998 after the county council ruled they could not keep the children. They reappeared in January this year when social workers said they would let the High Court decide the matter. Last June, the court ruled that the Bramleys should share parental responsibility for the girls with social services until 2001 when their adoption application will be reconsidered.

Mr Farrer told the court that the couple had been charged with a number of offences and that "there were powerful reasons for a prosecution". He added: "The abduction involved a prolonged deception of social workers and a carefully thought-out plan to disappear from the jurisdiction of the English court.

"Of course, the defendants acted in this way because they loved the children and disagreed very strongly with the council's decision," he said, adding: "There is a strong public interest in ensuring that the future of children placed for adoption is decided by the adoption agency, subject to the powers of the court, and not by the wishes of the prospective adopter."

Mr Justice Jowitt had already ruled that, as a matter of law, it was not open to the Bramleys to argue that they had a reasonable excuse. But Mr Farrer said that after considering that ruling, the Bramleys indicated they were ready to accept a caution. "Most importantly," he said, "such a course involves an admission of guilt of the offence charged."

Cambridge County Council welcomed the decision to drop the charges and said it would "enable us to get on with focusing on the children".

Dave Bodle, Mrs Bramley's brother, said the couple, who are legally banned from talking to the media, would be delighted by the decision but he added that it would be hard for them to rebuild their relationship with social workers who, he felt, had left them no way out.

Stressing that he was not speaking for the couple, he said: "I would like social services to accept that they did get it wrong, draw a line under it and move on together with Jeff and Jenny."

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