Britain’s High Court of Justice has recently been faced with child protection cases that reflect the unfortunate radicalization of young girls exposed to the extreme ideology and values espoused by the self-styled Islamic State.
In London Borough of Town Hamlets v. B (2015) EWHC (Fam) August 21, 2015 the Court considered the case of 16-year-old B. who came to the attention of authorities when she went missing from her home. B.’s mother, acting on information received from B.’s brother, advised police she was about to fly to Syria.
The police arrived just in time to stop the flight, taking B. into custody. Child protections authorities made an application to Justice Hayden to make B. a ward of the court and secure her passport. After the orders were made, the Social Services Department engaged B. and her parents in a dialogue where they discussed purchasing an internet monitoring device, as suggested by the police. B.’s parents agreed to the plan and were fulsome on their support of it, as it would entail B. remaining under their care and control.
However, the proposed plan was abandoned when a search of the family home revealed a plethora of electronic devices which were seized for analysis by Britain’s Counter Terrorism. Pursuant to section 58 of the Terrorism Act, B. was arrested on suspicion of terrorist offences, as were her parents and brothers, offences that carried substantial custodial sentences.
The analysis produced the following material in B.’s possession:
(1) A document headed “44 Ways to Support Jihad” with practical suggestions as to the support of terrorist activity;
(2) Internet searches relating to terrorist manuals and guides to terror activities. That also included queries as to the response times of the Metropolitan Armed Response Team and the Queen’s Guard;
(3) Internet searches as to the preservation of on-line anonymity, including, as confirmed by a police officer at an earlier hearing, the downloading of software to hide the IP address of the user’s computer when on-line;
(4) A downloaded version of “Mujahid Guide to Surviving in the West”. Possession of that document is, of itself, a serious criminal offence. It gives guides to weapon and bomb making and to “hiding the extremist identity”.
On the siblings’ devices were numerous articles urging flight to ISIS territory and recommending its lifestyle, and videos of terrorist training and images of actual beheadings and execution.
B’s parents were in possession of more disturbing and illegal documents and information praising ISIS with additional detailed data regarding terrorism and gruesome videos.
Justice Hayden found the material to be powerful and alarming, stating:
“It is not merely theoretical or gratuitously shocking, it involves information of a practical nature designed to support and to perpetrate terrorist attacks. I have noted already but reemphasise that it provides advice as to how to avoid airport security, particularly for females. In addition, the videos of beheadings and…corpses can only be profoundly damaging, particularly to these very young, and in my judgment, vulnerable individuals.”
Judge Hayden criticized as disingenuous an earlier statement made by the family before the terrorism material and criminal charges were laid, suggesting they were monitoring B. and hopeful that her earlier attempt to flee Britain could now be put behind them.
“We are a very strong family unit and we are doing our very best to help prevent such a situation from reoccurring. We are keeping extremely close eyes on B. and trying to be encouraging of her moving without ridiculing her for her actions to the extent that this incident forever haunts and affects her day to day living.”
The Court concluded that in view of the material found in the home the family statement was an “elaborate and sophisticated succession of lies.”
Ultimately B. was removed from her parent’s custody, while her siblings were permitted to remain, as their indoctrination was not as egregious.
This decision illustrates the observation that the family court system is emblematic of change in life and society, changes that often resonate first in family dynamics, resulting in new challenges for family law judges and lawyers.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang