Sonja Anker For Avadis & Co. Solicitors 18/03/2016
Mr Justice Hayden held that the now 18-year-old girl was a child in need from June 2015, when she decided that she did not want to live with her family anymore; as they were not strict enough Muslims. Hence, as a former relevant child, she should now qualify for support by local authority until age 21.
The Pakistani girl, who was born and raised in London’s Borough of Enfield escaped home for the first time in February 2014. Without her parents’ approval, she set out for the Islamic state territory and travelled through Turkey until finally reaching the Syrian border – where the then 16-year-old apparently changed her mind. After having returned to the UK, she told social workers she was unhappy living with her family and that she wished to live in a community under stricter Islamic rules, where she would feel more accepted.
In September 2014 she left London a second time; making her way to Egypt, Greece and Bulgaria. Having returned to the UK two months later she was questioned and monitored by anti-terrorism police. Instead of going back home she reported herself homeless. However, Enfield Social Services rejected to provide alternative accommodation reasoning that her parents have always kept their home available, in consequence the girl would have never been homeless and a child in need under the Children’s Act. Since then, she had stayed with various friends, relatives, and occasionally with her parents. When the girl tried travelling to Bulgaria again in November 2015, she was detained at Heathrow airport. Afterwards, she dropped out of school and enrolled for Islamic studies.
Shortly after these incidents a judge assigned Enfield Social Services to provide accommodation and further support. Enfield objected that there was no reason to review its decision.
Justice Hayden has called the Enfield authorities’ decision ‘fundamentally flawed’, and went on to criticise the borough for coming to the false conclusion that the girl was not a child in need – based on her parents’ offer of accommodation. Justice Hayden went on to point out that the girl has in fact been physically, emotionally and sexually vulnerable during the time she has not had a permanent home. Furthermore, by excluding the girl from any support per se, Enfield would have failed to inform itself properly and to decide on the basis of a reflective assessment.
The court’s decision may end up having quite a large impact on future cases, as well as society on the whole; considering that the girl has only been one of many young Muslims in London in the recent past that have radicalized and distanced themselves from their families.