Threshold – the importance of getting it right
Date posted: 18 February 2019
ABCDE, Re  EWHC 1841 (Fam)
This is a leading radicalization case relating to threshold which highlights the importance of the Local Authority getting their case right the first time round. This case concerned an application brought by the Local Authority for permission to withdraw care proceedings in respect of five children. It also included consideration of a costs order against the Local Authority sought by the parents for the way in which the Local Authority’s case was presented.
The Local Authority alleged:
- risk to the children arising from what were said to be the parents alleged extremist beliefs and the Father being subject of a Terrorism Prevention Investigation Measure notice which included restrictions on his movement;
- the Mother was radicalized and held extremist beliefs which she actively propagated;
- the Mother was said to be an active participant in and organizer of the Women’s Circle which was closely associated with a terrorist group.
The Local Authority claimed and relied on the idea that:
- the children were suffering significant emotional and psychological harm arising from exposure of their parents extremist and radicalising views and were likely to adopt the same views;
- the children had been exposed to extremist and radicalising content of meetings of the Women’s Circle when they accompanied their Mother to those meetings;
- the parents continuing level of denial and their failure to engage meaningfully with any protective resource and/or organisation meant that there has been no reduction to the likelihood that the children would continue to suffer significant harm.
The Court granted permission for the Local Authority to withdraw the proceedings. The Court found that there was no evidence that the children had been taught the views that the Local Authority contended the parents had/held in the past and that there was no indication that the children had been affected negatively by any extreme or political views. The Court held that the Local Authority could not point to any evidence of the children having suffered significant emotional harm and held that there was no evidence that suggested a connection between the parents’ alleged extremist beliefs and the way in which the children presented to social care, health and education professionals.
This case really does highlight that when bringing a care case before the Court, the Local Authority’s evidence must always be scrutinised by practitioners in the first instance so that any gaps can be found in the evidence imminently. As practitioners, it is essential to ensure that the Local Authority have evidenced that there is a particularisation of harm or risk of harm, there is a link from the facts asserted to the harm, that their case is presented on proper analysis rather than assertion and that we troll through all the families contact with the Local Authority pre proceedings and depict any contradictions.
In relation to the cost order application, whilst the Court commented that it was not an unreasonable order to seek in this circumstance, he was not persuaded that the facts justified such an order being made.