British judge condemns sheikh’s treatment of youngest wife
Dubai’s ruler has been denied legal responsibility for two of his children who live in fear of abduction in Britain because of his “remorseless and unremitting” domestic abuse.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, 72, a member of the Queen’s racing circle, was condemned by a senior British judge for his behaviour towards the youngest of his six wives, Princess Haya Bint al-Hussein.
Haya, 47, fled to London in 2019 in fear of her life with their children — Jalila, now 14, and Zayed, ten — after her husband learnt that she was having an affair with her British bodyguard. Mohammed was ordered last year to pay her a record £554 million settlement.
The princess, a sister of Abdullah II of Jordan, told the family division of the High Court in London that she was still living in fear of the sheikh. “Intimidation and harassment of me continues across both the children and financial proceedings; it is waged across a number of different forums; all of it is designed to undermine me, and ultimately crush me,” she said.
“I continue to be utterly terrified by the power that Sheikh Mohammed wields, the risks he (and those around him) continue to pose and the pressure that he seeks to place upon me. He is using everything in his armoury to grind me down, and the reach of his power is immense.”
Lord Pannick QC, representing the sheikh, said that Mohammed should receive credit for an expert report which found that “both children are loved by the father” and that he did not now insist on their return to Dubai.
Sir Andrew McFarlane, president of the family division, found in a welfare judgment: “The father has acted, in a wide manner of ways, over a period of years, in a wholly coercive and controlling manner towards the children’s mother to a degree which can only be seen by her to be all consuming and all encompassing.”
He said that Mohammed maintained a “campaign of fear, intimidation and harassment” against Haya which included hacking her mobile telephone, trying to secretly buy an estate neighbouring her Surrey mansion and writing poetry which contained death threats.
“His Highness’ behaviour towards the mother, in each of its separate manifestations, whether by threats, poems, co-ordinating press reports, covertly arranging to purchase property immediately overlooking hers, phone-hacking or in the conduct of this litigation, has been abusive to a high, indeed exorbitant, degree,” added the judge.
McFarlane has previously ruled that two of Mohammed’s daughters by another wife had been abducted on his orders. Princess Shamsa, now 40, was abducted from a Cambridge hotel in 2000, while Princess Latifa, now 36, was abducted from a yacht while fleeing Dubai in 2018.
He said that Jalila and Zayed were now living in “highly restricted circumstances” because of the abduction risk.
The judge added: “Although conducted on a scale which is entirely outside the ordinary circumstances of cases heard in the family court in this jurisdiction, the father’s behaviour towards the mother of his children is ‘domestic abuse’.”
Because of the sheikh’s “remorseless and unremitting behaviour” for almost three years Haya “simply cannot contemplate any prospect of sharing parental responsibility”, he said. McFarlane gave Haya sole responsibility for decisions on the children’s health and education.
McFarlane highlighted Mohammed’s “infrequency and brevity of contact” with his children and the “full on and multi-layered litigation” he had waged in the case. He said that the sheikh was “the father of two fine children” and “the time for building bridges is not over”.
In a public statement after the ruling, Haya described her family’s “frightening journey”.
She said: “The last few years have been a frightening journey and yet the sanctuary, protection and extraordinary compassion we have experienced in England have strengthened our belief in the enduring power of both humanity and justice.”
She also praised the court and Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service: “They have given us hope for a future of dignity, free as possible from fear — not a day will go by in my life that I do not feel gratitude for every freedom my children and I have and every moment we are given together. I have been deeply humbled, through this long and intense experience of British justice, to see with utter clarity the values and foundations that built this wonderful country.”
Haya also expressed “deep gratitude” to her brother, King Abdullah II, and said that her children “will always honour their roots” in both Jordan and Dubai. “As my father, His Majesty King Hussein Bin Talal, would have wished, we will continue to honour our family’s proud tradition of peace, bringing people together and building bridges in the Middle East and to the West.”
Welfare judgments are normally anonymised before being published but McFarlane ordered that almost all details be made public amid fears that Mohammed is trying to manipulate public opinion. The manipulation included those close to the sheikh publishing photographs on Instagram of Mohammed appearing to falsely show him having face-to-face contact with his son.
Despite a series of damning court findings against Mohammed — who is also prime minister and vice-president of the United Arab Emirates — there appears to have been no impact on relations with the UK. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge made an official visit to Dubai last month. Mohammed is Britain’s biggest owner of racehorses through his celebrated Godolphin stable in Newmarket, Suffolk.
Mohammed’s spokesman said: “He loves his children and cherishes their love for him. He has always cared and provided for them, and always will. He maintains his denial of the allegations made in these contentious proceedings.”