A high court judge has praised a social worker’s handling of a case in which a 16-year-old girl attempted to fly to Syria to join ISIS after being “fully radicalised”.
In a judgement published last week, Justice Hayden praised the social worker for making an “outstanding contribution to the case”, which ended with the girl, referred to as B, being placed in local authority care.
The role of social workers in preventing radicalisation will be a key topic at this year’s Community Care Live event, which is free for registered social workers.
The girl, who lived in the London borough of Tower Hamlets, attempted to flee for Syria after being exposed to material “not merely theoretical or gratuitously shocking, it involves information of a practical nature designed to support and to perpetrate terrorist attacks”.
Last December the girl was removed from a flight by the metropolitan police, just minutes before it was due to take off. Following this, the local authority began an assessment of her parents, who appeared to co-operate with police and social services to stop the girl and her siblings accessing extreme propaganda.
However, in June of this year a search of the family home by counterterrorism officers found videos of actual executions, beheadings and photos of corpses on electronic equipment belonging to the girl, some of her siblings and her parents.
Justice Hayden ruled: “An environment in which there are the kind of vile images that I have described and the extreme polemic I have outlined, can only be deleterious to her emotional welfare.”
Like sexual abuse
“Only a safe and neutral environment free from these powerful influences can, for the time being, secure her welfare interests,” he added.
He compared the serious emotional harm B had suffered to sexual abuse, and said: “I can see no way in which her psychological, emotional and intellectual integrity can be protected by her remaining in the household.”
The judge remarked that the parents had sought to deceive the social worker, who had been “entirely convinced” that both B and her parents were co-operating openly and honestly with them and other professionals.
This was reinforced by the fact it was the mother who had informed the police of her daughter’s attempt to fly to Syria.
This meant the parents had been perceived to be a “protective force” until the scale of extreme writing, images and video possessed within the family home was revealed.
Justice Hayden said he could not recall “seeing deception which is so consummately skilful as has been the case here”.
“I have found myself wondering whether some of the material may have educated this family in skilful concealment of underlying beliefs and activities,” he said.
Community Care Inform subscribers can access our archive of case law covering all types of care proceedings, accommodation orders and specific issues such as child sexual exploitation.
Read a concise summary of Justice Hayden’s previous judgement in this case which ordered for B’s passport to be lodged with a solicitor, and the implications for social work practice.
The social worker, who could not be named in order to preserve the anonymity of the girl and her siblings, was praised for having a well informed and intelligent understanding of the issues, her professionalism, forming an effective link between social work and police operations, and forging a strong relationship with B.
“It is in the nature of the proceedings that come before this court, in particular, that the actions of social workers often fall to be scrutinised and are from time to time found to be wanting and deprecated in judgments. The opposite situation arises here,” the judgment said.
Good social work
“This social worker has, in my judgment, made an outstanding contribution to the case. All those who have encountered her, the lawyers, the police, the guardians, have been impressed both by the extent of her knowledge of this family and by her professionalism.”
However, Justice Hayden did reject the local authority’s application to take B’s brothers into care, instead opting to leave them in the household.
This was because there was no radicalised material found on the boys’ devices, the boys had much wider integration into society more generally and a “healthier range of interests”.
It was also one of the boys who first sounded the alarm about B’s attempt to fly to Syria, and two of the older ones are about to begin college, where the judge said they would be under a greater degree of personal scrutiny.