(Queen's Bench Division, Hayden J, 16 March 2016)
Public law children – Radicalisation – Child in need status – Whether the girl was homeless – Whether the local authority had a discretionary responsibility to treat the girl as a child in needDeclaratory relief was granted to the 18-year-old girl reflecting that the local authority had failed in its assessment of the girl and that she should now be treated as a former relevant child for the purposes of s 35 of the Children (Living Care) Act 2000.
The 18-year-old girl had been identified as a person at risk of radicalisation. She had a troubled relationship with her family and had previously travelled to the Syrian border. In 2014 she underwent a Nikah ceremony in preparation for marriage with a man in his 30s against the wishes of her parents.
When the local authority was made aware of her situation it concluded that she was not homeless and was able to return to her parents' home. No further action was deemed necessary.
The girl was once again detained by police at Heathrow when she attempted to travel to Bulgaria with a significant sum of money. In 2015 the local authority was ordered to provide the girl with accommodation pursuant to s 20 of the Children Act 1989 pending determination of the application for permission to apply for judicial review of the local authority decision. The local authority asserted that the girl was not homeless and could not be in need for the purposes of s 17 of the Act.
The application was allowed. Consideration was given to the President's Guidance: Radicalisation Cases in the Family Courts. The concept of need under s 17 covered a wide spectrum of issues relating to the welfare of a child. The statute imposed a duty to promote and safeguard the welfare of children. Radicalisation cases were a new facet of safeguarding and child protection. Implicit was a recognition of the profound seriousness of the contemplated harm.
The risks posed to the girl by virtue of her views and belief structure fell within the spectrum of radicalisation which placed her securely within the contemplated reach of s 17. It was clear that the local authority had not analysed the girl's case within that framework. It was paradigmatic that many children at risk or in need lived with parents or carers who presented a risk or were unable to protect the children from it. That such parents continued to offer the children a home was often irrelevant. The reasoning for dismissing the girl's case by the local authority was manifestly irrational.
While it was established principle that there was no good reason to hold that a child who had not been looked after by a local authority should be treated as if he had been in order to become a former relevant child that did not absolve the local authority from its discretionary responsibility.
The authority's decision-making had been fundamentally flawed. The girl would be regarded as if she were a former relevant child. It was plainly desirable for her to be supported to take decisions for herself which were better informed and rooted in a more reflective analysis. It could also be noted that there might very well be a significant benefit to wider society.
The declaratory relief available rendered the case far from academic. The draft orders provided a real and vital remedy.
Case No: CO/5606/2015
Neutral Citation Number:  EWHC 567 (Admin)
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE
QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
Royal Courts of Justice
MR JUSTICE HAYDEN
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LONDON BOROUGH OF ENFIELD
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Ms. Grainne Mellon (instructed by GT Stewart Solicitors) for the Claimant
Mr. Michael Paget (instructed by Enfield Council Legal Services) for the Defendant
Hearing dates: 18th February 2016
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