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England and Wales High Court (Family Division) Decisions

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Cite as: [2016] EWHC 3088 (Fam)

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This judgment was delivered in private. The judge has given leave for this version of the judgment to be published on condition that (irrespective of what is contained in the judgment) in any published version of the judgment the anonymity of the children and members of their family must be strictly preserved. All persons, including representatives of the media, must ensure that this condition is strictly complied with. Failure to do so will be a contempt of court.

Neutral Citation Number: [2016] EWHC 3088 (Fam)
Case No: LS15C00459


The Family Court
Coverdale House
East Parade

B e f o r e :


Re C, D and E (Radicalisation: Welfare)


Philip Booth (instructed by Local Authority lawyer) for Z Local Authority
Charlotte Worsley (instructed by Chivers Walsh Family Law Solicitors) for the Mother (A)
Lewis Donnelly (instructed by Lumb & MacGill) for the Father (B)
Clare Garnham & Amanda Palfreman (instructed by Finn Gledhill) for the Children's Guardian (C, D, E and F)
Hearing dates: 25 October 2016



Crown Copyright ©

    The Honourable Mr. Justice Cobb:

  1. A judgment which I delivered at the conclusion of the fact-finding stage of this case, reported as Re C, D and E (Radicalisation: fact-finding) [2016] EWHC 3087 (Fam), serves as the essential pre-reading for this judgment. In that earlier judgment, I described the events which had preceded and provoked the launch of Part IV Children Act 1989 proceedings in relation to the three children, C, D and E in July 2015. I had hoped to be able to complete the proceedings in April 2016 (see [2016] EWHC 3087 (Fam) at [4]), but this proved impossible, largely because of the complex assessment which was required (see below) following the determination of the facts. The final hearing in fact took place on 25 October 2016.
  2. I deliver this short judgment to indicate my approval of a consent order which will have the effect of bringing these proceedings to an end. By this order, I discharge the interim care orders, and make no further orders. All three children, together with their newly born baby sibling (F), will remain at home in the care of their parents under no statutory order; each benefits from a 'Child in Need' plan which has been devised by the Local Authority, agreed by the parents, and attracts the support of the Children's Guardian.
  3. This is in very many ways a positive outcome to proceedings. It will have been apparent from my earlier judgment that I was extremely concerned about the children in this case, in the care of these parents who held such radical views about Islam. Over the course of the last 9 months, they have worked with the Local Authority, and specifically with the jointly appointed expert Mr. Rashad Ali, in a bespoke specialist piece of work, and assessment, in relation to their attitudes and opinions to Islam. There is now good evidence that the parents reject their previous ideological beliefs, which they now acknowledge to have been extreme and unorthodox; there is no evidence that they have in any sense indoctrinated C or D; they have a much more resilient attitude to extreme ideology than previously.
  4. For the purposes of this judgment, I have read:
  5. i) The reports of Mr. Rashad Ali and his colleague, Ms Masieh;

    ii) Social work statements, and a detailed parenting assessment undertaken by the social workers; the placement agreements drafted under the Placement of Children with Parents Regulations 1991;

    iii) Multiple statements of the parents;

    iv) The Child in Need plans;

    v) The analysis of the Children's Guardian.

  6. I have also had the opportunity recently to meet with C and D in the presence of the Children's Guardian and the Children's solicitor, and in compliance with the 2010 Guidelines for Judges Meeting Children. This was an enjoyable and valuable occasion for me, and I hope for them. Both children spoke freely; C in particular asked searching questions. Both children presented confidently, politely and maturely; they spoke about their schools, their course preferences and their friends. As I indicated to the father later in court, it is easy to remark that a child or children "are a credit to their parents", but no one should underestimate the energy, time and parental dedication which lies behind that short phrase. These children fit that description admirably well.
  7. The children made four specific requests of me during our meeting: (a) that the proceedings should be concluded soon, (b) that if the local authority was to remain involved, there should be consistency of social work team visiting, (c) that they would like their personal possessions (seized in July 2015) to be returned to them by the police, and (d) they would like soon to be able to visit their relatives in London. These, it seemed to me, were all entirely reasonable requests; the first is accomplished by the making of the final order now. I have specifically required the Local Authority to give me assurances in relation to the other three.
  8. Recent events

  9. It is appropriate that I should record the key events in the family's life since the January 2016 judgment as follows:
  10. i) Within a short time of the judgment, the parents filed evidence to set out their reactions to the findings. The parents both confirmed that they accepted the findings of the court, and wished to find ways of working with the local authority openly and co-operatively to ensure that the concerns are addressed; the father said that he was beginning (as at February 2016) to accept that "many of the things I said and did were not appropriate and not a true expression of Islam … I cannot fully explain why I allowed myself to get drawn into radical extreme thinking"; the mother accepted that "the views I expressed …were wrong";

    ii) Generally, the parents have indeed worked cooperatively with the Local Authority within the tight 'contract of expectations' entered into with the social services department; the Local Authority has supported the family financially given the children's 'looked after' status; the social workers have visited the family at least every 28 days, and have had ready access to the children who appear well cared for and about whom there have been no welfare concerns;

    iii) In April 2016 I approved the removal of the electronic tag from the mother, and from the father later in June; the Ministry of Justice, without prejudice to its position in other cases, agreed to fund the costs of the same until these dates;

    iv) The parents' passports have been revoked under the Royal Prerogative;

    v) A fourth child (F) was born to these parents in the summer; that baby is not the subject of any public law order;

    vi) Work was undertaken with C and D in building their resilience to developing radicalised ideologies and beliefs;

    vii) The parents faced charges of fraud arising from the events which I described in my earlier judgement; there was a delay in the publication of that judgment while the criminal process resolved.

    Counter Extremism Consultancy Training Research and Interventions

  11. In March 2016, Mr. Rashad Ali was instructed jointly by the parties to assess and advise in the case; Mr. Ali is a fellow at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, and an expert in radicalisation from CENTRI (Counter Extremism Consultancy Training Research and Interventions). He was a former member of the Hizb ut-Tahrir national leadership (this is a radical, but to date non-violent Islamist group). He has written extensively in the field of radicalisation, and in October 2015 he authored a paper 'De-radicalisation and Integration: The United Kingdom's Channel Programme'. He worked on the case with a colleague Ms Hadiya Masieh.
  12. He undertook an initial vulnerability assessment of the parents before working with them over a period of three months, focusing predominately on their belief systems. His sessions were devoted to considering with the parents a number of challenging issues:
  13. i) The legitimacy and Islamic authority of the Islamic State; its actions in violation of Islamic normative teachings for warfare;

    ii) The parents' beliefs on 'takfir' and ex-communication, the notion of jihad and the sanctity of civilian life, the difference between Islamic state conception of governance and classical conceptions of religious and legal pluralism;

    iii) The parents' understanding of the difference between extremist beliefs and Islamic normative beliefs around theologically justified reasons for political rebellion, religious ethics of warfare versus extremist violations of jus ad bellum, elaboration on diversity within the Islamic tradition and pluralism, and the rule of law;

    iv) Grievances, and the importance of expressing legitimate grievances through societal norms and legal boundaries.

    He gave guidance and support to the parents to assist them to reintegrate within both their local communities and their Muslim communities, and in relation to receiving support from mainstream services; he has also considered with the father ways of facilitating his return to work. These pieces of work reflect the fact that the parents have felt increasingly isolated in the community as a result – as they see it – of the intervention of the social care agency.

  14. At an interim stage of the process, following the fact-finding hearing, the Children's Guardian reported (June 2016) that:
  15. "The parents' recognition and acknowledgement that they have associated with, and supported, groups that espouse extremist viewpoints, and that they have posted such views themselves on social media is a big step forward in comparison with their views prior to the fact-finding hearing. It is this willingness to explore and discuss their views that has led to Mr Ali making a largely positive and optimistic assessment of their capacity to change. They are to be commended for taking these first steps but as Mr Ali says, they continue to be susceptible to extremist views and further work and education is required.… He states that the parents' overall vulnerability for engagement in extremist thought processes and activities continues to be strong and that they continue to search for identity and meaning in their world view."
  16. Mr. Ali reported that the parents appeared to welcome the chance to discuss their beliefs, and he believes that they swiftly moderated their views. He questioned their motivation for participating in the sessions, but was satisfied that there was sufficient evidence that they questioned their earlier core assumptions around extremist dogma, and recognised their own lack of understanding and indoctrination from what he described as "unsavoury sources". Following the work, he has concluded that:
  17. i) The parents have been and are now genuine in their claims that they reject, wholeheartedly, their previous ideological beliefs. They reject the foundations of these ideas and beliefs of the Islamic State as an ideological project;

    ii) He considers that the parents present a low flight risk;

    iii) There is no evidence that the parents had been indoctrinating their children, C and D;

    iv) The parents demonstrated apparent resilience to extreme ideology.

    Mr. Ali undertook certain focused work with C, at the conclusion of which he reported that C did not have strong ideological engagements although expressed some grievances about racism and attitudes he found at school; he knew very little about extremist groups or ideology. Mr Ali did not see him having any major vulnerability that would be identified as being abnormal for a young person of his ethnic and socio-economic background.

  18. Ms Masieh, a colleague of Mr. Ali, undertook a number of sessions with D; she found that D was happy to talk about her feelings and experiences and was open about her worries. Ms Masieh undertook the vulnerability assessment with D, and has identified no areas of concern, D expressing no radicalised ideologies.
  19. The parents report that they found the sessions with Mr. Ali helpful. Mr Ali recommended that there should be a review after six months from now to assess again the issue of risk and vulnerability. It is agreed between the parties that Mr. Ali will conduct that review.
  20. The parents filed statements for this final hearing. The father expresses the view that he has found the work undertaken by Mr Ali to be "extremely helpful in giving us a new understanding of our previously held views and the concerns expressed about them"; he described his "respect" for Mr Ali and his work. His statement concludes with the words: "I wish to assure the Court the things that I have learned about my ideas and actions over the course of these proceedings will not be forgotten". The mother too found the sessions "insightful and helpful", and, like her husband, has indicated that if she wished further help or clarification she would turn to Mr Ali; she states that she and her husband "have rectified and rejected our previous extreme beliefs".
  21. Welfare considerations concerning the children

  22. Reports from the social workers and the Children's Guardian describe the older children (C and D) as continuing to thrive at school, and achieve academically; their attendance at school is good. There are no health concerns with any of the four children and the sibling relationships are observed to be warm and positive. A section 47 investigation prompted by anonymous referral in this period proved to be without foundation.
  23. The Guardian expresses her satisfaction with the 'Child in Need' plans for the children, and for their overall welfare.
  24. Conclusion

  25. I recognise that there is a risk that the parents have simply complied superficially with the requirements of Mr Ali, saying that which they know the professionals want to hear, and that once the proceedings are over and the glare of social work interest has faded, they will revert to their previous views and behaviours. However, I am sufficiently satisfied from the reports of Mr Ali, who is experienced in working with those who hold and promulgate extremist views, that the attitudes of these parents have genuinely changed. The parents have undoubtedly responded more positively to the interventions of social workers during the course of this last year and levels of parental mistrust of authority have undoubtedly diminished. All of this is a piece.
  26. I am satisfied from the information placed before me that these parents are meeting, and will continue to meet, the needs of these four children in all material respects; I have considered the welfare issues by reference to the paramountcy principle of section 1 of the Children Act 1989, and have considered the checklist in section 1(3). All relevant considerations point to the conclusion that it is indeed in the best interests of the children that they should remain at home in the care of their parents. I am not satisfied that making an order would be better for the children than making no order (section 1(5) Children Act 1989), and I therefore propose simply to discharge the existing orders.
  27. Publication of the judgments

  28. The Local Authority invited me to authorise publication of the fact-finding judgment having regard to the terms of the guidance: Transparency in the Family Courts: Publication of Judgments: January 2014; see especially paragraph 17 and Schedule 1. The parents initially opposed publication, concerned about the risk of identification of the family in the local community, but by the time of the final hearing they raised no opposition to publication. The Guardian expressed some support for publication, but was aware that C and D were anxious about their details being revealed. It was strongly felt across the board that if the fact-finding judgment were to be published, then it was in the public interest to provide this concluding sequel. Taking matters overall, I consider that there is no compelling reason not to publish, and I therefore give permission to the parties to do so in these anonymised terms.
  29. That is my judgment.

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