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CARE: Haringey London Borough Council v S [2006] EWHC 2001 (Fam)

Date:25 JUL 2006

(Family Division; Ryder J; 25 July 2006)

Following criminal and family proceedings arising out of ritual harm to a child, said to be associated with 'ndoki' or 'kindoki', a traditional belief prevalent in Congolese culture colloquially referred to as witchcraft, the court approved careplans in relation to all four of the children involved. The father of two of the children was serving a sentence of 3 years in relation to the ritual harm charges, and those children were now living with the mother but would remain on the child protection register. The court approved this placement. The aunt of the main victim of the attacks was serving a sentence of 8 years, and the child had been placed very successfully with foster carers. The court approved this placement. The mother of the fourth child was also serving a sentence of 8 years in relation to the attacks, and the child had been placed with his father and stepmother. The court would have approved this placement as a permanent arrangement had it not been that sometime after the child was placed with the father and stepmother, the Home Office had indicated its intention to remove both adults from the jurisdiction at the conclusion of the care proceedings. While immigration decisions were not a matter for care proceedings, the basis for the Home Office opinion did not sit easily with the basis for the placement decisions made in the care proceedings. It should be remembered that the child had indefinite leave to remain in the jurisdiction, having lived here since the age of 21 months. Were he to be separated from his father he would experience yet more harm in traumatic circumstances (having been one of the children whose disclosures were integral to the criminal and family proceedings) and would be unable to rely upon his mother for any alternative care or support. There was also evidence that if he returned with the adults to Angola, he would at a later stage be at risk of harm arising from accusations of witchcraft. During the criminal proceedings and thereafter publicity restriction orders were put in place to prevent the identity or whereabouts of the four children becoming known and new and comprehensive orders were made by the court to continue that protection.