S (Care Proceedings Extremism), Court of Appeal - Family Division, March 27, 2018, [2018] EWHC 645 (Fam)

Resolution Date:March 27, 2018
Issuing Organization:Family Division
Actores:S (Care Proceedings Extremism)
 
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Neutral Citation Number: [2018] EWHC 645 (Fam)

Case No: LE17C00186

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

FAMILY DIVISION

IN THE MATTER OF THE CHILDREN ACT 1989

AND IN THE MATTER OF X (A BOY) (Born [a date in] 2001), Y (A BOY) (Born 2nd February 2004) & Z (A BOY) (Born 15th August 2007)

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Date: 27/03/2018

Before:

MS JUSTICE RUSSELL

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Between:

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Miss Skellorn QC and Mrs Thomas (instructed by Leicester City Council) for the Local Authority

Mr Vine QC and Lawrence Messling (instructed by Stephensons Solicitors LLP) for the MS, the 1st Respondent

Mr Norton QC and Jessica Lee (instructed by Arani and Co) for FS, the 2nd Respondent

Miss Johnson (instructed by Emery Johnson Astills Solicitors) for S, the 3rd Respondent

Miss Markham QC and Ben Mansfield (instructed by Dodds Solicitors LLP) for X, Y & Z, the 4th, 5th & 6th Respondent

(Children by their guardian)

Hearing dates: 5th March 2018

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MS JUSTICE RUSSELL

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.

The Honourable Ms Justice Russell DBE:

Introduction

  1. This judgment deals with the interim care plans and placement for the two younger children of a sibling group of four, three of whom are the subjects of care proceedings brought by the local authority. They are, and it is not disputed that they will remain, in the care of the local authority until the case can be heard in September 2018, a period of six months. The local authority had identified two separate placements for the boys (Y) who was born [a date in] 2004 and is fourteen and his brother (Z) who was born [a date in] 2007 and is now ten years and 7 months old; it is the local authority's plan to move the two boys to new placements, which the authority says are better suited to their needs. This move is supported by their guardian.

  2. The third child with whom this court is concerned is their older brother (X) who was born on [a date in] 2001 and is now 16 years and 4 months old. X lives in a foster placement with his older sister (S) who is eighteen and is not the subject of these proceedings. S the eldest child of the respondent parents in the UK; there is an older brother who is living in East Africa. There is no plan to move X. The local authority wishes [a date in] to move Y and Z now and their guardian supports the move, notwithstanding the separation of the two siblings, as in their best interests. Their parents oppose the move.

  3. The 1st (mother - MS) and 2nd (father -FS) respondent parents do not object to the children remaining in care, the concessions they have made to date provide a sufficient evidential basis to meet the statutory criteria set out in s31 of the Children Act (CA) 1989. As they both acknowledge, Y would refuse to return to their care even if that were possible. Nonetheless, even allowing for the recent concessions made by the parents there are outstanding issues of considerable seriousness in respect of allegations made by the children both as to the extent of the physical and emotional abuse within the family home and as the complaints they have made that their parents tried to brainwash them and to influence them into adopting extremist views, sometimes known as radicalisation, which remain to be decided by the court. This court is not in a position to reach any conclusion on these or other contested facts and issues until it has heard the evidence.

  4. The 1st and 2nd respondents have not, it must be recognised, been furnished with full details of the proposed placements for Y and Z. This is largely because the level of antipathy from their children towards them is such that they do not want their parents to know where they are (or will be) and continue to refuse to have any contact at all with them. The parents' anxieties about the placements is further exacerbated by the complaints that they had made about the children's religious and cultural identity and needs not being fully respected and met within their various placements since their reception into care in February 2017. The extent to which they were justified in such complaints is a matter yet to be adjudicated on, and, in any case, these are matters which the local authority had begun to take appropriate steps to remedy before the case came before me for what was, most unfortunately, an abortive attempt at a full hearing.

  5. The reasons and facts leading to the adjournment are not in dispute. The case was due to be heard over eight days commencing 5th March 2018 but was adjourned, on the first day with the agreement of all parties, because the 1st respondent (MS the children's mother) had, finally, been provided with the services of an intermediary, which revealed, in turn, that she had not until that day been enabled fully to participate in the proceedings (despite the assistance of a language interpreter); she had not been able to understand the proceedings or the advice given to her and was, of course, not able to give instructions or respond fully or appropriately to what her representatives were asking her. As a result, her counsel required additional time to take her instructions, not least on her written evidence.

  6. Later it was agreed that the case could commence the following week on the 12th March and the balance of the listed hearing would provide sufficient time for the proceedings to be concluded. Most unfortunately, MS then became unwell at the end of the first week and over the weekend and on Monday 12th March she was taken to hospital in an ambulance at the behest of her GP. Although she returned to court, on the Tuesday, her counsel had not completed taking her instructions. It took longer than expected and was not in fact completed by Wednesday when further time was sought by counsel; the time left to the court once that had been done was insufficient in which to hear the case. The time was used by the parties to further narrow numerous outstanding issues, including, for example whether the eldest child S would be required to give oral evidence by the parents and with further case management: the case will now be heard in the long vacation.

    Outline of family background and commencement of proceedings

  7. The 2nd respondent, the children's father (FS), was born on 30th November 1966 in Eyl, in Somalia. The 1st respondent (MS), their mother, was born in Mogadishu on 30th December 1969. Their eldest child, a son was born on 2nd October 1996 and is said to be living in Somalia or Kenya. At a time, unknown to the court, and before S was born, the family moved, in circumstances that the parents have not divulged, to the Netherlands. S was born in The Hague on 21st May 1999. The family are citizens of the Netherlands, holders of Dutch passports and have, as EU citizens, free-movement within the EU.

  8. It is the local authority's case that the respondent parents largely engaged with health care and education services and did so appropriately in the early years of the 3 older children's lives, but, as time passed and certainly after Z was born that engagement dropped off and the family became more and more isolated. The two boy's X and Y first came to the attention of the authorities through Educational Welfare Services in respect of their enrolment at school and home education. On 6th February 2017 ChildLine received an email (now known to be from S) complaining of abuse and physical chastisement principally by MS and saying that it was mostly Z who suffered. The children were kept at home, did not attend school and were kept socially isolated only being allowed out once in every three weeks. Police traced the email to the family address and to FS as the bill payer. The police made a Police Protection Order (PPO). On the 7th February 2017 a s47 CA 1989 joint investigation by social services and the police was initiated. The children were spoken to individually. S told the social worker that the children were repeatedly beaten, denied access to health and education, not allowed to socialise and that their parents were intending to take them to Kenya for good.

  9. None of the children who were able to vocalise their wishes and feelings wanted to stay with their parents. As to Z, FS had initially denied that he was present when the police and social services attended the family home. His siblings were concerned for Z and did not want him to be left in, or returned to, the care of their parents. All four siblings were removed from the family home and S voluntarily placed herself in local authority care where she remains in a foster placement with X. On his reception into care, Z was found to be an extremely vulnerable child, presenting as pre-verbal with global developmental delay. None of the children have had any direct contact with the parents since being taken into care on 7th February 2017. X is now sixteen and Y is over fourteen and a half and they have both refused any contact with their parents and adamantly do not want to be reunited with them.

  10. Despite making some concessions the 1st and 2nd respondents continue to deny the extent of complaints made of physical chastisement and of making the...

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