A judge has praised social workers for maintaining focus throughout a difficult case where a father with “extreme views” filmed professionals and uploaded the videos to the internet.
The man, who has been jailed for 18 years for firearm offences, filmed the social workers and police officers on two occasions and barred them from entering his house. He was also threatening towards his children’s teachers and aggressive when giving evidence in care proceedings.
Sitting in the Family Court, Judge Jackson said: “I want to praise the social workers, and [one] in particular, for the steady way they have worked with the family in such difficult circumstances. It would have been easy to lose focus but they have not let that happen.”
The judge described the father, a former born again Christian who converted to Islam, as a “bigot” who “uses religion as an excuse to treat other people with contempt”. His judgment on the care proceedings was made in February but has been published this week following the conclusion of the man’s criminal trial.
Background to the case
The care case concerned the future of a mother’s four children, with the man the father of the two youngest. In July 2015 the children were taken into foster care after a judge ordered they should be brought back to the UK following fears the father may have been taking the children to Syria when the family boarded a flight to Istanbul.
In the latest hearing Jackson was asked to consider an application from the local authority to have the children placed in the care of their mother, who was living with the grandmother.
Reviewing the case, Jackson criticised the way professionals had handled the initial order for the children to return to the UK. He said social services had not been informed of the risks to the children until “the very last minute” and found proper procedures had not been followed, with some information “inaccurate or exaggerated”.
He said: “I realise that social services and their lawyers and the court were dealing with an urgent emergency where any delay could have been disastrous. Having heard all the evidence, I have no doubt that an urgent order was justified. But even though orders of this kind sometimes have to be made in a hurry, it is still important that the proper procedures are followed as closely as possible.
“The order that was approved was inaccurate in a number of ways.”
The judge said there was no basis for the report’s contention that the children had suffered from serious neglect and had been exposed to ongoing radicalisation.
“In a case like this there is a heavy duty on professionals to record and summarise information accurately. This level of inaccuracy is unacceptable. It has understandably caused the mother and [the father] (in particular) to feel aggrieved. It has worsened an already difficult relationship with social services and complicated the court’s task in reaching its decision.”
However he said the inaccuracies were not deliberate, and social workers had been acting in good faith in a fast-moving situation.
Jackson said he was “suspicious” that the man may have been intent on taking the children to Syria but there was insufficient evidence to be sure and some information suggested this wasn’t his intention.
However, he added: “What I can say is that Mr A is a man who cannot be trusted. He is capable of anything. He might have kept the children out of England last summer and there is a real possibility that he will try to smuggle them out of England in the future if he has a chance.
“If he got his way, it would be a disaster.”
The father had contended during proceedings that “people are out to get him because of his religion” and that there was a “plot by police and social workers to smash up his happy family just because he is a Muslim”.
Jackson disagreed with the father’s claims, and said his problems were of his own making.
“What I am clear about is that he is dangerous to the children and their mother because of the way he behaves and because the mother is not able to stop him. There is a good side to Mr A – everyone has a good side – and this makes it hard for [children] and their mother to see what he is really like,” he said.
The mother had been “weak and foolish and her feelings for the man had blinded her to what he was “really like”, the judge said.
“He has got inside her head and it will take time for her to recover.”
She would cover for him with authorities, and they tried to deceive professionals by saying they were getting divorced, but would then meet in hotels. However, the judge felt she would not deliberately take the children somewhere dangerous.
“The mother is a quiet and peaceful person. She would like a happy home and for the children to do well at school. She wants to be loved. She is not interested in politics or religion and does not know much about what goes on in the world.”
The judge said by the time the proceedings began, the children had suffered, or were at risk of suffering, significant harm due to a combination of the impact changes of school were having on the older children, inconsistent parental engagement with services, the father’s extreme beliefs, and the likelihood of him removing the children from England and taking them to an unknown location.
He made care orders to place the children with their mother, who was living with their grandmother at the time.