Princess Haya of Dubai asks judge to protect her child from forced marriage

Harry Shukman, Richard Spencer, Jonathan Ames
July 31, 2019, The Times

Princess Haya bint al-Hussein, dressed in white, arrives at the High Court with her legal team today

The princess who fled her husband, the billionaire ruler of Dubai, is seeking a High Court order to protect one of her children from any forced marriage.

Princess Haya bint al-Hussein, 45, who is married to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, 70, has applied to the High Court in London for a forced marriage protection order.

Her application, which is awaiting a ruling, was revealed yesterday in a hearing before the most senior family court judge in the country in the latest stage of a legal battle between the couple.

Sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Sir Andrew McFarlane allowed the media to publish that Princess Haya has applied for wardship of their children, and is seeking the protection order for her child and a non-molestation order. Sir Andrew ordered that the gender or ages of Princess Haya’s children must not be reported.

As he rejected an application from Sheikh Mohammed’s lawyers for reporting restrictions to remain, Sir Andrew said that “there is a public interest in the public understanding, in very broad terms, proceedings that are before the court”.

Princess Haya, the Oxford-educated daughter of the late King of Jordan and half-sister of King Abdullah of Jordan, attended the hearing in her first public appearance since fleeing to Britain. She is thought to be staying in an £85 million mansion near Kensington, which she bought apparently without her husband’s involvement in 2017.

The use of forced marriage protection orders in the UK is rising. Figures from the Ministry of Justice showed that 126 such orders were issued in the first quarter of this year, double that of the same period last year. They were created by the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 and allow courts to prevent forced marriages taking place, and to protect those who have already been forced into marriage.

Princess Haya and Sheikh Mohammed’s divorce, which could result in the largest settlement in British legal history, is not the subject of the legal action. In a joint statement released this month, the couple said that this case was about the welfare of their children.

There were protests outside against Sheikh Mohammed

Sheikh Mohammed, who was not in court, is seeking an order for the summary return of the children to Dubai.

Princess Haya’s legal team was led by Baroness Shackleton of Belgravia, perhaps the UK’s most renowned divorce lawyer, who is known as the “Steel Magnolia”. Lady Shackleton acted for the Prince of Wales in his divorce from Diana, Princess of Wales, and Paul McCartney in his split from Heather Mills in 2008. Ms Mills was alleged to have tipped a jug of water over the lawyer’s head during divorce negotiations.

Sheikh Mohammed was represented by Helen Ward, who acted for Guy Ritchie in his divorce from Madonna. Other former clients include Andrew Lloyd Webber, the composer, and Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One tycoon, in the battle with his former wife over his £2 billion fortune.

The sheikh, who has two official and four “unofficial” wives and 23 children, published despondent poems after Princess Haya left Dubai. “We have an ailment that no medicine can cure,” one read.

Two of his daughters have tried to flee the Gulf emirate in the past.

Sheikha Shamsa, then aged 18 and now a step-daughter of Princess Haya, ran away from the family’s estate at Longcross in Surrey in 2000. She was found and returned to Dubai.

Her sister, Sheikha Latifa, 33, fled by boat last year but was intercepted by the Indian and United Arab Emirate navies off Goa.

Princess Haya is said to have fled after discovering “disturbing facts” involving her step-daughter.