Family Judge Counters Threat to Children Posed by Islamic State

In an unprecedented case, which proved the ability of the family justice system to react to change and unforeseen social problems, a number of children who were believed to be at risk of leaving the country to fight for or support the Islamic State have had their passports confiscated by order of a High Court judge.

In response to emergency applications lodged by two local authorities, the judge made the children concerned wards of court, a decision which conferred parental responsibility for them solely on the Court. He recognised that the removal of their passports represented an incursion into their freedom and autonomy but ruled that they were self-evidently at significant risk in circumstances where their families were considered unlikely to be able to prevent them leaving the UK.

The judge recognised that the threat of harm posed to the children was ‘a different facet of vulnerability’ which the courts had not encountered previously. However, he noted that family judges have always been at the vanguard of dealing with medical, technological and cultural changes which so often resonate first within the family.