Radicalising our children

At least 156 children have been subject to care proceedings over concerns of extremism risks, according to a new study released by the Henry Jackson Society. Of the cases examined, the think tank found that 48% of families had one family member or more who joined IS. Nikita Malik, Director of the Centre on Radicalisation and Terrorism and the report’s author, today warns that the UK’s courts are not currently up to the task of handling a wave of women who joined the ‘caliphate’ returning with their children.

The report concludes that the family court is frequently powerless to take steps to protect the welfare of children, even when the counter-terrorism division is aware that parents involved are often terrorists with extremist mindsets. The former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, Lord Carlile, welcomed the report, and stated it is “apparent that the family court is not always able to take the appropriate steps to protect” the children of extremists. Meanwhile, Tim Loughton MP, the former Children’s Minister, stressed that the Family Courts require “better protocols, guidance and support” to deal with this “increasingly urgent part of their role”. Contrary to claims the girls of Islamic State were vulnerable brides, the report finds that, far more so than boys, girls who travel to the ‘caliphate’ made their own decisions.

The author concludes that boys tended to join Islamic State under the influence of their families, whereas girls were more active and independent in seeking out extremist material – often online. All of the girls in cases analysed by the study, which qualitatively analyses the 20 cases with the most comprehensive court records over recent years, who had self-radicalised were motivated in part by the possibility of marriage to a person of their choice. The report calls for a bespoke set of powers for judges to use in cases of extremism involving children. Citing the high burden of proof required for the more traditional option of care orders, the report argues that the powers imbued with wardship have proved more suitable in many cases, to meet the growing and pertinent challenge of countering radicalisation.

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