Radicalisation of children: wardship - an old measure to tackle a very new problem

Jeanette Ashton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Arguably for many 2015 was the year when the tragic events in Syria became a very real home crisis too, particularly with the Charlie Hebdo massacre; the beach killings in Tunisia; the bombing of the Russian airliner from Sharm el Sheikh; the Paris atrocities and the ongoing refugee crisis.1 Alongside this the CCTV footage of three London schoolgirls at Gatwick airport thought to be en route to Syria to join the so-called Islamic State terrorist group was a shocking depiction of an increasing threat to UK children2. Despite the government’s Prevent strategy launched in 2011 which aims to “challenge extremist ideology, help protect institutions from extremists, and tackle the radicalisation of vulnerable people”3 and imposes a new duty on “specified authorities” including local authorities, schools and NHS trusts through s26 of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 to have “due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”, a number of cases involving the radicalisation of children were heard by the family courts in 2015 which demonstrate the crucial role of the courts in safeguarding vulnerable young people. Speaking in The London Borough of Tower Hamlets v M & others, two cases brought by local authorities concerned that a number of minors in their areas were at risk of leaving the UK to travel to Syria, Hayden J stressed that this is a new area for the family courts: “The family court system, particularly the Family Division is, and always has been, in my view, in the vanguard of change in life and society. Where there are changes in medicine or in technology or cultural change, so often they resonate first within the family. Here, the type of harm I have been asked to evaluate is a different facet of vulnerability for children than that which the courts have had to deal with in the past.”4 This article will focus on some of the leading wardship cases concerning the radicalisation of children heard in 2015 and will consider the guidance issued by Sir James Munby in respect of such cases.5
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-34
Number of pages2
JournalStudent Law Review
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


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