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Teenage girl emotionally harmed by extremist family

A 16 year-old girl has been “subjected to serious emotional harm” as a result of her family’s ties to extremist group ISIS, the High Court has declared.

Last December, the girl was removed from an aeroplane by the Metropolitan Police minutes before it was scheduled to take off. She had intended to travel to Syria to join ISIS.

Following this event, the London Borough of Tower Hamlets began an assessment of her parents, who said they would willingly cooperate with the process. However, during this assessment a number of “electronic devices” were found in the home and removed by a counter terrorism division of the police.

These contained numerous documents which contained advice on how to support terrorist activity and videos which encouraged the violent activities of ISIS. The girl’s search history also revealed that she had sought information about terrorist manuals and how to keep her identity secret online.

Some of the documents found also included advice on how to conceal extremist ideology from authorities in the West. Mr Justice Hayden said that these documents undermine the parents’ claim that they were willing to cooperate. Previously, the parents had appeared completely genuine in their concern. The judge said that he had rarely seen “deception which is so consummately skilful as has been the case here” and described the parents’ statements as “an elaborate and sophisticated succession of lies”.

Mr Justice Hayden agreed with the local authority’s assessment that the family had inflicted “serious emotional harm” on the girl and endorsed their plan to remove her from their care.

While the girl had not been physically or sexually abused, the judge said the situation was comparable. He declared that the “violation contemplated here is not to the body but it is to the mind”, which was “every bit as insidious”.

He noted that, in a letter to the court, the girl had said she was “willing to be tagged and to have no internet access at home”. This was plainly a reference to a recent case in which Sir James Munby ordered the tagging of a family with suspected links to ISIS, the judge said.

However, he concluded that tagging would not help because it would only be useful if the primary concern in this case was that she would run away. He said that tagging could not protect her from the “psychological and emotional harm” she would be exposed to if she remained at home.

To read the full decision in London Borough of Tower Hamlets v B, click here.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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