Two months ago, Sir James Munby handed down judgment in a case involving children whose parents were held to be at risk of travelling to join ISIS. Now, the President of the Family Division has issued guidance on radicalisation cases appearing in the family court.
Given the complexities of the cases involving radicalisation, Sir James has decided that all cases falling within the following description should be heard by High Court Judges of the Family Division:
Where there are allegations or suspicions that children, with their parents or on their own, are planning or attempting or being groomed with a view to travel to parts of Syria controlled by the so-called Islamic State; that children have been or are at risk of being radicalised; or that children have been or are at risk of being involved in terrorist activities either in this country or abroad.
In such circumstances:
- The Designated Family Judge must be notified immediately;
- The Designated Family Judge must immediately notify the Family Division Liaison Judge (who should liaise with the President of the Family Division); and
- Urgent steps must be taken, in consultation with the Family Division Liaison Judge, to allocate the case to a High Court Judge of the Family Division.
It is only in exceptional cases where either a Designated Family Judge, or a judge authorised to sit as a High Court Judge, may hear a case but only if permission has already been authorised in relation to that particular case.
It is perhaps not surprising, given the recent comments on balancing the right to freedom of expression and the right to privacy/a family life in the family courts, that Sir James Munby also issued guidance in relation to the media: judges hearing such cases should only exclude the media as a last resort and if there is reason to believe that the situation cannot be adequately protected by a reporting restriction order or ‘anti-tipping-off’ order.
Sir James also said that all agencies involved need to work together to ensure that children were afforded suitable protection, including the family and criminal jurisdictions extending all proper assistance to each other, for example by disclosing materials from the family court proceedings into the criminal process.
Sir James Munby’s guidance can be read in full here.