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England and Wales High Court (Family Division) Decisions

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Cite as: [2017] EWHC 2851 (Fam), [2018] 2 FLR 875

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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: [2017] EWHC 2851 (Fam)
Case No: FD15P00452


Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

B e f o r e :


A Local Authority
- and -

First Respondent
- and -

Second Respondent
- and -

C, D, E and F (by their children?s Guardian)
Third to Sixth Respondents (children)


Ruth Kirby and Zoe Taylor (instructed by A Local Authority) for the Applicant
Richard Doman (instructed by Edwards Duthie Solicitors) for the First Respondent
Ian Peddie QC (instructed by Irvine Thanvi Natas Solicitors) for the Second Respondent
Tara Vindis (instructed by Gary Jacobs Law) for the Third to Sixth Respondents
Hearing dates: 7-25 November 2016



Crown Copyright ©

    Mr Justice Newton:

  1. This is the final welfare decision concerning four children. This fuller judgment must be read in conjunction with my earlier fact finding judgment handed down on 1 July 2016: [2016] EWHC 1599 (Fam). The welfare hearing unexpectedly spanned three weeks (largely as a result of unavoidable illness and the real difficulty of ensuring the attendance of the mother from prison), and, as a result, a great deal of court time was unnecessarily wasted. I have already made a wasted costs order against GeoAmey during the March hearing and I shall subsequently consider wasted costs in relation to this hearing, although it is not yet clear where the real responsibility lies.
  2. In any event, because the hearing ran over by 50%, and because the children were anxiously waiting for the Court's decision (and I had assured them that they would know the decision within two weeks), I took the unusual but necessary step to distribute my decision with brief reasons so that time would not be lost in the staged reunification of the children to the care of their father. That document obviously needs to be read in its entirety into this judgment. Having reflected on recent Court of Appeal authority, it may well be unnecessary to give further reasons, since the decision document of 30/11/16 probably sets out all that is necessary, but I do so because it might be desirable to expand the explanations on some important issues.
  3. Following my initial findings I authorised a series of experts to carry out investigations concerning C, D, E and F, as to how best to protect these children. There is no unanimity of view. That of itself is unremarkable, but it has become clear that this is in part because this is one of the first cases so far heard by the Courts where at least three of the children (C, D and E) are, or have been, themselves severely radicalised, and they are very young; E is only 10 years old, C and D a little older. Other issues have strayed into the hearing of this case, but as I have made clear before, wider issues of public protection are for others; my focus and paramount concern is solely the welfare of each of these children.
  4. In the event I have reached clear unequivocal conclusions which require careful proactive planning and implementation. I have concluded that the four children are most likely to have a balanced, meaningful and constructive childhood, and in particular regain a proper Islamic perspective and view of the world, under the loving care of their father, who has made such remarkable and heart-warming strides since I last heard him in March.
  5. Before turning to the evidence and perspectives which are controversial, it is helpful to summarise the positions of the parties which have been placed before the Court.
  6. The Local Authority carefully, skilfully and above all helpfully, set out its case through Ms Kirby and Miss Taylor. They argue that the children need:
  7. "a. A decision about their lives (made up of future living and schooling arrangements).
    b. Ongoing exposure to mainstream ideas and education.
    c. Support for, and expression of, moderate religious beliefs.
    d. As much stability as can be achieved as quickly as is reasonably practicable. No more upheaval (such as trips to Turkey/Syria).
    e. Minimisation of the recognised risk that they will return to radical beliefs in which, until September 2015, they were steeped/immersed.
    f. Safe and predictable contact with their family, if they are not placed with them.
  8. What, they ask, is the greatest risk to the children against which the court must guard? Namely, the risk for the three older children that there is a resumption of radicalism/extreme political beliefs which they have so clearly expressed and which would cause them further emotional harm. The risk for F is that he will be exposed to what his siblings have been exposed to and that he will suffer the same emotional harm as they have. The local authority's priority is to ensure that the risk of such exposure is kept to a minimum.
  9. It is not contended by anyone that the mother can now (she is a serving prisoner in any event until at least March) or in the foreseeable future (such are her views) care for the children.
  10. The dispute is whether the father can provide care within a reasonable time frame, or whether the children must remain in long term foster care. It is acknowledged that they cannot stay where they are, and a new (as yet unidentified) placement would have to be sought.
  11. The Local Authority identify a raft of issues concerning the father's parenting, some historic but nonetheless pertinent, for example his recorded failures in August 2015, and in particular his failure to call the police. Other current areas include his passive personality, not just in the sense of how he behaved when the family was together, abdicating all responsibility to his wife, but his continuing difficulty in spontaneously, intuitively identifying and anticipating risks. He has a low level of cognitive functioning, the very reverse of the children who are intelligent and articulate. The Local Authority are especially concerned about the combination of highly intelligent, motivated questioning children and a decent, loving but unquestioning father, who after all failed to prevent his children from becoming strongly radicalised and holding deeply worrying and extreme antisocial views.
  12. The mother was too unwell to give evidence. Through Mr Doman it is submitted that she accepts the Court findings from the Fact Finding hearing as to the extent of her beliefs. The mother, of course, is the lodestar. She has been the focus of the children's world in every sense; she is responsible for their core beliefs. She has no respect for the father. Whilst there is no good evidence that the mother has engaged in any sense that I would view optimistically (notwithstanding that for this purpose in relation to cooperative visits with the prison, I have not heard evidence either from the prison or the probation service or the mother), there might be the slightest glimmer that she might begin to reconsider the implementation of her extreme beliefs. However I would need strong, convincing evidence that she has in fact accepted the Court's findings of July 2016. There is no actual evidence of any moderation in her core beliefs (and her actions in Court support this). Time will tell. Whilst I cannot be certain at all about the beliefs of the mother, or the actions of her family, it is the case that with robust explanation it is likely that the older children will be better able to be protected, especially if they continue their lives in mainstream school.
  13. What is obvious is that the relationship which the children have with their mother will require careful management and supervision, whether they return to their father's care or remain in foster care. The mother strongly urges the Court to permit the children to return to their father's care, but even that must be looked at with care; does the mother contend for reunification with the father for genuine reasons, or because thus far she has been able to carry on without giving him or his views a thought.
  14. The father, through Mr Peddie QC, strongly urges the Court to accept the strides already achieved by the father, and that with the raft of very impressive support available to him; he would be able to successfully resume the care of the children.
  15. The children's guardian, Mr Wheway, submits through Ms Vindis that the children should not remain in foster care, he does not support the "reissued care" plan which emerged during cross examination, that is placing the children in long term foster care but providing support to the father so that he could apply to discharge the care order at some unspecified point in the future.
  16. The Guardian points to a helpful structure to assess and analyse the risks to the children:
  17. i) "The extent to which the children have held and continue to hold radical views.

    ii) The extent to which the mother continues to hold radical views

    iii) The personalities of the family members

    iv) The immediate and extended family dynamics

    v) The extent to which the father and members of the paternal family are able to protect the children from further exposure to radical views

    vi) Ongoing and future support and education for the children

    vii) Support that would be required for the Father or alternatively the paternal aunt and uncle to safely parent the children."

  18. The Guardian contends that if these children were made the subject of a care order they would be further subjected to considerable distress and at worse may experience disillusionment and emotional deregulation with an increased vulnerability to extremist views. The Guardian was clear that the children's best interests would be best served by educating, training, empowering and supporting the father so that he could be sufficiently proactive of the children's short and long term welfare.
  19. The Legal Framework

  20. The welfare of C, D, E and F is paramount. Whilst I am not being asked to consider adoption nonetheless I am being enjoined to place the children in a foster home, which whilst in some ways might seem to protect the children from the identified risks would have a necessarily drastic effect on them as individuals and in particular upon their relationship with their father with whom they share a close and loving relationship. Whilst in a different context I bear in mind Y v UK (2012) 55 EHRR 33:
  21. "…family ties may only be severed in very exceptional circumstances and … everything must be done to preserve personal relations and, where appropriate, to "rebuild" the family. It is not enough to show that a child could be placed in a more beneficial environment for his upbringing. However where the maintenance of family ties would harm the child's health and development, a parent is not entitled under article 8 to insist that such ties be maintained."
  22. Similar sentiments were expressed by Baroness Hale of Richmond in Re B (A child) (2013) UKSC 33:
  23. "… only in exceptional circumstance and when motivated by overriding requirements pertaining to the child's welfare, in short, when nothing else will do. In many cases, and particularly where the feared harm has not yet materialised and may never do so, it will be necessary to explore and attempt alternative solutions."
  24. The line of cases following Re B-S (Children) (2013) EWCA Civ 1146 reiterate the need for vigorous comparative analysis of the realistic options, looking at the advantages and disadvantages of both.
  25. As Ryder LJ said in W (a child) v Neath Port Talbot Borough Council [2013] EWCA Civ 1227:
  26. "The purpose of setting out these basic but important propositions is to provide a very practical example as well as the legal basis for the use of the court's power to direct the evidence that it needs to determine the issues it has identified and answer the questions that are before the court. The welfare evaluation and the question what, if any, orders are to be made engages Article 8 of the Convention and the proportionality of that intervention must be justified. One cannot have a clearer description of the imperative than that contained in the Supreme Court's judgments in B (A Child) [2013] UKSC 33. A court cannot apply the yardstick of proportionality in its consideration of what is necessary without having evidence about the options to which it can apply a welfare evaluation. As McFarlane LJ said in Re G at [54]:
    'What is required is a balancing exercise in which each option is evaluated to the degree of detail necessary to analyse and weigh its own internal positives and negatives and each option is then compared, side by side, against the competing option or options.'"

    At para 78 in Re W Ryder LJ makes this additional observation:

    "Setting out the positives and negatives or if you prefer, the benefits and detriments of each placement option by reference to the welfare checklist factors is an illuminating and essential intellectual and forensic exercise that will highlight the evidential conclusions and their implications and how they are to be weighed in the evaluative balance that is the value judgment of the court. It is to be noted that this exercise is different in substance and form from a mechanical recitation of the welfare checklist with stereotypical commentary that is neither case specific nor helpful."

    As Ryder LJ stressed in Re W para 81:

    "It is likewise not open to a local authority within proceedings to decline to identify the practicable services that it is able to provide to make each of the range of placement options and orders work in order to meet the risk identified by the court. That is the purpose of a section 31 A care plan. If a local authority were able to decline to join with the court in the partnership endeavour of identifying the best solution to the problem, then there would be no purpose in having a judicial decision on the question raised by the application. It might as well be an administrative act.
    Parliament has decided that the decision is to be a judicial act and accordingly, the care plan or care plan options filed with the court must be designed to meet the risk identified by the court. It is only by such a process that the court is able to examine the welfare implications of each of the placement options before the court and the benefits and detriments of the same and the proportionality of the orders sought."
    And at para 82:
    "To do otherwise is to risk a disproportionate intervention into the lives of the child and the parents simply because of the financial or other priorities of different local authorities. To put it into stark terms, it cannot be right that in one local authority a child would be placed with a parent or other kinship carer with significant support to meet the risk whereas in another local authority the same child would be placed with a view to adoption in the implementation of a plan to meet the same risk. The proportionality of placement and order are for the court. The services that are available are for the authority.

    In this regard, I cannot improve on the words of the court most recently in Re B-S (Children) ibid [29]:

    'It is the obligation of the local authority to make the order which the court has determined is proportionate work. The local authority cannot press for a more drastic form of order, least of all press for adoption, because it is unable or unwilling to support a less interventionist form of order. Judges must be alert to the point and must be rigorous in exploring and probing local authority thinking in cases where there is any reason to suspect that resource issues may be affecting the local authority's thinking".
  27. I bear in mind also the helpful and pertinent remarks of the President in Re D (a child) No3 [2016] EWFC adopting and incorporating in particular the highly apposite remarks of Gillen J, as he then was, in G and A [2006] NIFam 8.
  28. The Expert Evidence

  29. The Channel worker, an educated experienced Islamic scholar was shocked by what C and D were saying in April when her work began; they had already been in foster care for seven months and divorced from the extreme ideologies of their mother and her associates. They spoke confidently of the demonstrations they had attended, including with Anjem Choudary, they spoke of the Siddeeq Academy and Abu Hamza. Especially shocking was the attempt to justify the killings by ISIS. They spoke of the murder of Lee Rigby commenting that soldiers had killed Muslims abroad. It was completely obvious from subsequent discussions that they had been taught to hate the British State and had been exposed to and had adopted ISIS indoctrination, in that their perspective was extremist. By the fourth session the children were reluctant to discuss such issues at all. Currently the worker (after only a handful of other sessions conducted with the social worker) considered that the children had undergone an "astounding transformation" and she had no concerns about their ideologies at the moment. Using the Police Vulnerability Assessment tool she did not assess them now as highly radicalised and that the programme had been successful. I do not agree. Whilst such thoughts may not be at the forefront of their minds and current expressions, it is inconceivable to think that their entire belief base has somehow been repositioned after just four sessions. The Channel worker did however advise safeguards:
  30. i) access to appropriate ideological guidance;

    ii) mainstream schooling;

    iii) preferably being with their father (about which she had strong views, considering that if they did not go home their vulnerability to radicalisation would increase);

    iv) outside financial support and guidance.

  31. The Channel worker was an impressive witness. It is obviously essential to these indoctrinated children that having established such a good rapport with the children that she should continue to be involved in their management and guidance.
  32. Where I obviously differ with the witness it is on the "success" of the programme so far, and in particular on their "astounding transformation". The children have known nothing else but their mothers deeply entrenched perspective. It seems to me inconceivable that their entire belief system, their very foundations, would so radically be altered in so short a space of time. Whether it is that those thoughts are less to the fore, or more likely, not receiving the response they expect or anticipated, avoiding the subject; or a combination of these and other factors I cannot speculate. What is however obvious is that such work will need to be intelligently coordinated, regular and probably long term.
  33. Professor Silke and Dr Brown gave evidence together (as they had before Hayden J) in LB of Tower Hamlets v B (No2) [2016] EWHC 1707 (Fam). They offer very considerable core expertise in this area. In the context of radicalisation, they were positive and optimistic about the prospect of the reunification of the children with their father. The father, they considered, does not need a sophisticated understanding of the issues involved, but merely should be able to identify the possible danger signs and know what to do if he does. There is a dual perspective here; which strengthens reunification; on the one hand the father is determined to regain the care of his children, but equally, these intelligent children want no further disruption; they want to return and remain in their father's care. With that background an important protective factor would be mentoring for both the father and the children; that might also include the mother. They endorse the approach taken by Minhaj-ul-Quran until the mother genuinely changed her perspectives. All contact with the mother for the foreseeable future will require careful professional supervision. What became increasingly clear was that their support for the father was not some subjective response, but an objective conclusion based on judgement made from the risk of radicalisation, with all the other important factors (schooling, religious instruction etc.); a supported family placement they contended would be much more likely to be dynamic and durable.
  34. Professor Bashir, Consultant Child Neuropsychiatrist, agreed with Professor Silke and Dr Brown's interpretations. He has significant experience working in Pakistan and with severely radicalised children (e.g. failed suicide bombers). He applied that expertise from the most extreme and dire of circumstances to the situation that affects these children. He displayed a very human, balanced and realistic perspective of the father and the children. Unlike Carol Edwards, he (like the contact supervisor) was impressed how the father divided his time between the children. He was clear that looking at the father himself, he was cooperative, and reliable, he would do as asked. That cooperation together with work from the Channel worker, Minhaj-ul-Quran, the schools and some broad social work oversight and mentoring, would enable the father to care for the children, and more importantly protect against the identified radicalisation risks. He would need signposting, not therapy (for which there was no need), but he needed the opportunity to gradually develop an alternative understanding. In any event like the previous witnesses he concluded that the children were much more likely to rekindle or develop extreme and antisocial views in foster care, more so if that care was unsuccessful or even broke down. Like the previous witnesses he also brought together the personality and perspective of the father, who needed to become more assertive, and the children, with proactive support and advice; endorsing the proposal of regular access to religious scholarship, family support, of course schooling, and outside activities, and social work parenting support and guidance. Work was needed with the children on the role of their mother, but the father did not need therapy.
  35. Professor Bashir advised that a roadmap was required. His balanced approach, sympathetic to the needs of these children was enhanced by his strong cultural understanding, which gave his evidence an even greater substance. All those things he suggested could form part of the care plan. The social worker has an important role to play here, in coordinating the reunification and subsequently ensuring its durability. The plan needs to be in place first before reunification; he thought a time frame of 3 to 6 months was realistic.
  36. Dr Hilari proved to be an important witness, confirming my increasing anxieties during the fact finding hearing, about the father's level and mode of functioning, placing him in the extremely low range of adult intellectual ability, but aggravated by a limited skill base and a limited education. The father is illiterate (a significant factor for the next witness) and certainly at the fact finding hearing had a negligible command of English, something he has since significantly remedied. There is also a strong cultural dislocation as well. He has a simplistic view of life and is emotionally naïve. He appears to lack intuition and therefore insight as a result. He is a simple man, well meaning, but simple nonetheless. All those factors allowed the mother (who is the opposite in every aspect) to dominate him. He has been almost totally dependant on her. All of which leads to the local authority's justified submissions about the father and his capabilities of being able to provide what the children need.
  37. However, Dr Hilari, who was an impressive balanced and realistic witness, using the word "stagnant" in relation to the father, was concerned that with education and recognition, the father who has developed, has real untapped potential. She considered that a package of support and guidance, similar but not identical to that suggested by Professor Bashir, would place the father in a position to provide for his children. She spoke of an eclectic holistic approach, the Channel worker, the social worker (for education and I inferred mentoring) religious support through the Mosque or a similar vehicle, and systemic therapy which could be orchestrated or implemented or overseen by her or at least the need for a PAMS trained worker. She spoke of procedural and effortless learning.
  38. Her timeframe was 6 months, but like Professor Bashir, analysing the sessions so far, suggested that a reasonable time frame was to work to reunification by Easter 2017.
  39. I was greatly impressed by Dr Hilari's intelligent, balanced and realistic approach; she weighed the advantages and disadvantages of the father's capacity and capabilities in a fair, moderate way. Whilst she is not in a position to really comment about the children, her evidence went to the very root of this enquiry which is the father's ability to parent the children, reliably, predictably, and to guard adequately against the risks of the children being further radicalised, and against the as yet unknown future influences of the mother. Like Dr Hilari, I have concluded that far too much has been made of the "gun incident" on D's phone, it is a signal example of seizing on the smallest foundation of an incident and endeavouring to build a castle.
  40. Dr Hilari was a moderate, realistic, impressive, emotionally intelligent and sensitive witness who had the additional advantage of cultural understanding. She powerfully and carefully balanced the pros and the cons, taking into account the weaknesses of the father and of his situation with the very considerable positives.
  41. The same I am afraid could not be said of the next witness the independent social worker, Carol Edwards. She is a witness of very considerable experience and expertise, apparently relied on by many other judges in other courts but just as each judgment stands on its own however experienced a judge, so too does each witness in their contribution and analysis. Whilst I do not question that she addressed the central issues to this case, her approach and analysis stands starkly alone; that of course does not make it wrong, quite the contrary, but I was eager to hear (her reports and responses being largely silent on the issue) how she weighed the very considerable positives of the father with the deficits as she described them. I was surprised at the force and strength of her language, which had little bearing on reality.
  42. The father, the paternal uncle and his wife were deeply uncomfortable with her approach, and in particular her attitude towards them; having now heard her in evidence it is easy to see why. She prefaced many answers with a deep, melodramatic (and quite unnecessary) sigh. She had in fact, even in the witness box a most unfortunate manner, being at the same time both patronising and didactic. She argued strongly for the advantages for these children of long term foster care, she seemed to find a shadow in every corner, describing or interpreting behaviours that every other witness found difficult, indeed impossible, to believe; I too, having met the children, do not think at all, as did Mrs Edwards, that the children are shy, deceitful, undermining and intent on subversion. It might have helped if she had been able to observe an entire contact visit or endeavoured to assess their behaviours with a rather greater level of understanding. Mr Peddie established that this was the first case in which she had been involved concerning radicalisation. All that however, is put in the starkest relief by her abject failure to consider, let alone weigh, at all, the very considerable, overwhelmingly obvious, and important positive aspects of a life within their family, with their father. Her reports were silent on that, sensing a weakness she glibly and unimpressively rejoined that: "I can tell you now". At no point did I gain any impression that she had stood back objectively to assess the pros and cons, but increasingly that she had formed a view, and all her apparent, rather brief observations, and opinions (not echoed by any other witness) were brought to bear to support that view. That is to say that she bent the evidence to support her particular and narrow perspective. Putting to one side the unattractive delivery, her evidence was therefore unbalanced, ultimately misconceived; it was unfair. It is therefore of no assistance to me and I reject it in its entirety.
  43. The contrast with the evidence of the allocated social worker could not have been more marked. He was a really impressive individual, not just possessing a sensitive, cultural understanding, but having the considerable advantage of being informed, interested, humane and demonstrating a really balanced appreciation of the many layers of this complex case. I was not surprised to learn that he has developed a mutual and strong relationship with both the children and the father. His biggest concern was whether the father had the ability to protect the children; could he, in short, stand firm against the mother and the maternal family. He obviously liked the father (in fact it would be difficult not to), describing him as a thoroughly decent man, but he understandably really struggled with the father's historic passive conduct and his weaknesses. He said many times, "I'm not 100% sure he can do it".
  44. During the evidence the social worker endeavoured to distance himself from the evidence of Carol Edwards, and a rather different care plan emerged during the course of questioning; his discomfort was evident. Despite his assurance to the contrary I have concluded that his final position, which is one of caution, has been strongly affected by the involvement, stance and opinions of Carol Edwards, which is why I disagree with his conclusions. There is no getting away from the fact that very considerable parts of his analysis have been adopted from the advices of Carol Edwards, and despite determined argument to the contrary, that must significantly detract and undermine his analysis. His plans were at best uncertain; he had not identified any alternative home for the family, nor even commenced any enquiries, at least in any meaningful sense. I disagree with the social worker's conclusions in part because I find he has relied on Carol Edward's opinions, I do not consider, however, that such reliance blights at all his future involvement. He has a vital role to play in implementing and supporting the reunification of this family, he wishes to remain involved on both a professional and social level, and I would urge his authority to make sure that that is so.
  45. When the time came for the mother to give evidence, the case had already significantly overrun, largely because of the inefficiencies of the prison service in getting the mother to Court, but increasingly because of the mother's deteriorating health. The mother is central to the consideration of this case, and any assessment of her as to what risks she poses to the children in the future. I was not assisted by the conflicting information I received as to whether the mother was in fact cooperating or not with the pre-release work that was being attempted within the prison. I am prepared to generally resolve that in her favour for the purposes of this judgment, time will tell, but on the specific issue of risk I must proceed on the basis that there is no evidence that the mother, and her family, do not continue to pose the highest risk. This core aspect must be closely and continuously monitored and reviewed by those implementing the plan for reunification. Time, as I say, will tell, and the same, or an entirely different perspective may ultimately develop. For the purposes of any decision however, in deciding whether I can reunify the children with their father or not, I must proceed on the basis that the mother continues to pose a high and unquestionable continuing threat to the children. I note, for example, and with some disappointment, that despite a submitted "total change in approach", and the Court treating her with the utmost consideration, she has been unable to repay the courtesy, not even standing when the Court sat or rose.
  46. The father had a gruelling time in the witness box, giving evidence over 3 days. In fact, the longer he stayed in the witness box, the more persuasive he became. Unlike before, his evidence was really impressive, he was a different man. Despite his obvious shyness on questioning, he became more impressive, firing him with more determination, speaking in a way that I had not so far witnessed. There has been an obvious and seismic shift in the father since I last heard him, revealing an altogether more forceful and persuasive man. He has become rather articulate and intuitive. His English language has improved beyond measure; it is a small but significant sign of the father's determination to put his family back together, and for him to take charge of his, and all their lives. I have no hesitation in overwhelmingly concluding that he would at least benefit and respond to any advice and help, friendship or mentoring offered. He will benefit from the support of his brother (who I also heard from and found most impressive), and his sister in law. They present as a determined and cohesive force, which together will support the children well. No doubt there will be hiccups, but with the right advice and support, I see no reason why they cannot be overcome.
  47. The children's Guardian also gave evidence over a lengthy period, but I am afraid there was a lack of clarity about the way forward. He recommends a slow, staged reunification and he provided a really helpful analysis, as I identified earlier in this judgment. But with all due respect to the Guardian, he was really unclear as to how that might all be achieved – "it should be thrashed out at a professionals' meeting": I did not find this at all helpful. If he wasn't clear after several weeks of Court hearings, what was going to be achieved by a professionals' meeting? He was unclear how anything might be achieved, when or by whom. It became somewhat clearer during the evidence that his proposals were more by way of a further assessment, to see in fact whether the hoped for reunification could actually take place. Quite enough enquiry has already occurred for these children, a decision needs to be taken, now. The Guardian's proposals raised the very real spectre of further enquiries, assessments and hearings, since each expert had slightly different advices and emphases as to how best to achieve a successful and permanent reunification: no one spoke with the same voice. I had hoped that the Guardian forming a strong, if belatedly expressed, opinion that the children should go home, would have been able to offer his own analysis and advices to the Court.
  48. In reality the Guardian underlined the father's ability to physically and emotionally care for the children, but he was not able to describe a simple comprehensible pathway for the father to identify, support or challenge the children's belief systems, which have been so firmly engendered and laid down by the mother. It is a difficult task, but unless the Guardian is clear, how can the father, a really decent but straightforward man, possibly be expected to deal effectively with potential warning signs, behaviours or expressions.
  49. Conclusions

  50. I am overwhelmingly convinced that the children are much, much more likely to thrive and mature properly in the care of their father than in some as yet unidentified foster home.
  51. The expert evidence is almost all one way each approaching their evaluations with a slightly different perspective and professional background. Looking at the evidence side by side, I take together the complementary evidence (about the children's urgent requirements) from the social worker and Professor Bashir which puts into context my assessment of the evidence of the Channel worker. The children need coordinated regular and probably long term assistance and guidance. That radicalisation work needs to be heavily underscored by exposure and participation in mainstream life, principally schooling and outside cultural and religious scholarship and activity, and ordinary natural family life. I add too that the social worker here has such an important part to play. The children know and trust him. He will be able to coordinate and implement the different parts of the picture.
  52. The other side of the equation is the father himself; the social worker asked "can he do it?". The father was a very impressive witness, he has grown beyond all expectation as an individual during the proceedings. Actually, I thought him rather clearer on some of the core issues than some of the professional witnesses who seemed reluctant to nail their colours to the mast. Starting with Dr Hilari, her advices seemed to me considered and based on reality, i.e. what the father required, procedural and effortless learning overseen by her, or at least a suitable PAMS trained worker. Her evidence was underscored by the powerful evidence of Professor Bashir. The supports required for the father in many ways echo those required for the children. I have no doubt that the family, the mosque and Minhaj-ul-Quran all need to play a part.
  53. Professor Silke and Dr Brown helpfully brought together the two sides of the equation underscored by what they referred to as the dual perspective: the father determined to regain the care of his family, and the children desperate to return to his care.
  54. Whilst I have concluded that the social worker has been affected by the involvement and opinion of Carl Edwards, leading to greater caution, even indecisiveness, I do not conclude that that prevents his further involvement. Quite the contrary, he has such a strong and trusting relationship with the children, and importantly in truth an open mind, that I consider it is vital that he remains involved in the implementation and future medium term support of this family.
  55. I have already commented on the Court's view of the way Carol Edwards approached this family. It is unnecessary to repeat what I have already said in paragraph 34, which I import word for word into this discussion.
  56. Ultimately I conclude overwhelmingly that it is in fact more likely that they will be at risk of further radicalisation if they are not permitted to return home. I have only met the two older children (the recording of our meeting has been played to the Court). They are intelligent, articulate, delightful and enquiring children. They have an important part to play here too, the Court is placing its trust in them, it is in their interests that they make this work; they have no desire to remain, or to be returned, to foster care somewhere down the line. I am happy to tell them myself if it is thought helpful. It is overwhelmingly obvious that they need to remain in and enjoy mainstream school and life. I very much hope and expect that C's reticence will gradually ebb away.
  57. The radicalisation experts considered that the father needed "sign posting" to be able to identify and then deal effectively with any potential warning signs. The other experts agreed, although some of their solutions or pathways were to my mind unnecessarily complicated and unclear. If there isn't clarity, how on earth can the father possibly be expected to find his way, it's a recipe for confusion and possibly disaster.
  58. The children need to be gradually rehabilitated into their father's care over the next few months, between 3 and 6. They and he need the support of Channel, the mosque, and the services that can be provided by Minhaj-ul-Quran. The social worker who has had such a positive effect on this family's life needs to carry out some effective social work, together with an appropriately qualified worker (in terms of culture and PAMs trained). The work could be usefully coordinated by Dr Hilari or even Professor Bashir, such oversight is not essential but having regard to the wide and strongly held disparity of view, it might be preferable to the oversight of the social worker which in many other respects would have been perfectly appropriate. I am entitled to know what services the Authority are able to provide. The Authority have a duty to make this work, I am unimpressed by any argument that services cannot (or will not) be provided because of financial or other priorities, the risks here are too disproportionate. An urgent meeting needs convening to set out the identities, the plan and the timetable. I would like to see the children home before Easter 2017. All contact with the mother and her family will need to be professionally supervised until it is considered safe to do otherwise; further consideration by the Court may well be necessary. The children need to be told, and have in writing, precisely the facts, so that they too have a proper appreciation of their situation.

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