The High Court is to conduct a fact-finding hearing into allegations that a father involved in a residence dispute with his wife radicalised their eldest son.
In Re M, the parents were a Muslim couple with seven children. Both were British citizens but the father also held Libyan citizenship. The mother was a Muslim convert but later returned to Christianity, causing tensions within the family.
In September 2012, the family travelled to Libya. The parents gave different accounts of the visit.
High Court judge Mr Justice Holman explained:
“It is the case of the mother that this visit to Libya was simply for the purposes of a holiday of about two weeks. It is her case that after they arrived in Libya the father told her for the first time that he was intending that she and the children would remain permanently in Libya. The case of the mother is, therefore, that the father procured the travel of herself and the children to Libya by a deception or trick, concealing from her his true intention – namely, that they would remain there permanently and not return after a short holiday. The father very strongly denies that. His case is that before they even set out for Libya there was already agreement, or consensus, between him and the mother that they were travelling to live in Libya indefinitely, if not permanently.”
After four months, the mother and the couple’s eldest child left and returned to England for medical treatment. Whilst there, she launched court proceedings for the return of the other children. The court ordered their return to Britain, as they were ‘habitually resident’ in England. All seven children were also made wards of court.
The mother than returned to Libya with the eldest child but did not alert the father to the court orders, because she was afraid that if she did so he might take some or all of the children on to a third country. The father only discovered what she had done when he travelled to England with the two older sons, again for medical treatment.
The father was stopped at the airport and his and the two boys’ passports were retained by the authorities.
Following various hearings, the mother and all seven children then returned to England. They went to live in a London house still rented by the father.
During subsequent proceedings, the mother opposed unsupervised contact, saying the father had mistreated her and the children during their stay in Libya. The father strongly denied these claims.
A section 37 assessment of the family, made under the Children Act 1989, found that the children had settled back into the lives in England and described the father’s contact with the children in positive terms.
However, shortly before a planned fact-finding hearing, the mother claimed the father had ‘radicalised’ the eldest child, and described the father as “overly controlling” and fundamentalist. Some of the other children had also been angry and hostile towards her, she claimed.
The section 37 assessment was amended.
Mr Justice Holman, who had been due to hold the hearing, declared:
“It seems to me, therefore, that this very recent intervention by the local authority and the essential basis of it raises very grave issues in relation to these children and this family which now require to be very carefully considered by the court. I could not possibly have embarked this week on consideration of those issues around so-called “radicalisation” since no party, and in particular the father, was on any sort of notice that that issue would be under any sort of consideration at all this week.”
A new fact finding before a High Court judge was to be scheduled to allow the claims of radicalisation to be properly investigated and considered, as well as the other allegations. The possibility that the children had been “indoctrinated or infected with thoughts” concerning hostility towards England or Christianity was “potentially very abusive indeed and of the utmost gravity”, the judge declared.