Filipe Silva stood accused of kidnapping his Irish-Portuguese daughter in 2012, after refusing to hand her back to her mother or disclose the girl’s whereabouts for several months.
He unlawfully withheld his then seven-year-old daughter Giselle – widely referred to in the media as Ellie – from her British-Irish mother, Candice Gannon, for six months, spanning September 2012 to February 2013, ignoring a court order instructing her immediate return in the process.
In the several months of her absence, the child is believed to have lived with her father in Porto, and he allegedly limited contact between Ellie and her mother.
Ellie was eventually returned to Candice in February 2013 by her paternal grandmother after Filipe Silva was detained by PJ police.
Silva was last week sentenced to a two-and-a-half-year suspended prison sentence for his actions and also ordered to pay €17,500 in compensation.
Judge Joaquim Cruz, who headed proceedings, said Silva had acted with intent but justified the suspended sentence because the father had not shown any behaviour that indicated he would take the girl again after her return.
Conceding that he understood the father’s motives, he warned “this should not be done to a child” and in this case, “the parents were the children and the child was the adult.”
Silva’s defence argued the businessman acted out of desperation, alleging he feared his daughter was going to be taken to Ireland to live and claimed the child had said she did not want to go.
Through the trial the defence has said Silva’s actions should be interpreted as breach of a court order, and not kidnapping.
Speaking after the sentencing, prosecuting lawyer Spencer Dohner said he considered the outcome fair, given the legal framework for kidnapping crimes.
“For seven months the child could not live her life as normal, she couldn’t see her mother, go to school, be with family and friends, or experience any of the things that are normal for any child and she will suffer the consequences of this for the rest of her life”, he said.
Ellie currently resides in Ireland with her mother, stepfather and half-siblings; Silva has visitation rights.