Two girls orphaned following the murder of their family while on holiday have been placed with their maternal uncle and aunt.
Zainab and Zeena Al-Hilli, aged eight and five, were the only survivors of a mass shooting in France in which both their parents, their grandmother, and a passing cyclist were all killed.
When they returned to the UK, they were placed with foster carers as the police investigation continued, but later moved to stay with the uncle and aunt.
The local authority applied to the courts to establish the legal basis of the girl’s placement. Both the authority and the girls’ uncle and aunt favoured a special guardianship order.
Such orders appoint one or more individuals to be a child’s “special guardian”. Special guardians have exclusive power to exercise parental responsibility for the child. A special guardianship order provides a degree of permanence and security and are particularly suitable for children who require a greater degree of permanence and stability than is provided by an ordinary residence order, but for whom adoption is not suitable.
At the High Court, Mr Justice Baker considered all the alternatives and the children’s best interests, before reaching the conclusion that special guardianship was indeed the best option for the orphans. It would allow them to retain their family identity whilst providing them with a secure home.