Syria, Sharia and human rights: The last week in family law

A High Court judge has dismissed claims that two children involved in care proceedings had been abused by a satanic cult which drank the blood of infants. In P and Q (Children: Care Proceedings: Fact Finding) the two children and their mother and her partner had alleged that their father – from whom she is separated – was the leader of a north London cult which included a school head, a teacher, a priest, social workers and police. Mrs Justice Pauffley found that the claims were “fabricated” and “baseless”. She also condemned those who circulated the allegations online, saying many had done so with a “flagrant disregard” for the children’s welfare.

Five teenage girls who had shown an interest in going to Syria have been barred from travelling abroad by a judge at London’s High Court. The girls – two aged 15 and three aged 16 – were made wards of court, removing their passports and banning them from leaving England and Wales. The proceedings were issued after Tower Hamlets local authority, in London, raised concerns. Making the order, Mr Justice Hayden directed that the girls were not identified, and also ordered the removal of the passports of a number of adults involved in their care. He found that here was evidence to suggest that family members in the case had not been full and frank with social services, and that the girls were becoming more radicalised. He said: “It seems to me that that must have been known to the parents and they deliberately did not share it with the authorities who were keen to protect these vulnerable young girls”.

A lecturer has been awarded £39,000 damages and costs against his former wife after claiming that she deceived him into thinking he was the father of their son born following IVF treatment. The couple had attended a clinic in Spain where he gave a sperm sample. His wife later returned to the clinic where she was impregnated with the sperm of a former boyfriend. The boy was born in late 2005 and when he was around six months old the couple separated. They divorced in 2008. The man said that he looked after the child when his businesswoman wife was working and paid more than £80,000 in maintenance. However, in 2011 a dispute arose over the amount of contact he was having with the boy, and the woman then told him that he was not the biological father, which was confirmed by a DNA test.

The Home Secretary Theresa May has announced that there will be an independent investigation into the application of Sharia law in England and Wales. In a speech in London focusing on Islamic extremism, Ms May referred to problems concerning the divorce of Muslim women. She said: “There are some areas where – like in the application of Sharia law – we know enough to know we have a problem, but we do not yet know the full extent of the problem. For example, there is evidence of women being “divorced” under Sharia law and left in penury, wives who are forced to return to abusive relationships because Sharia councils say a husband has a right to “chastise”, and Sharia councils giving the testimony of a woman only half the weight of the testimony of a man. We will therefore commission an independent figure to complete an investigation into the application of Sharia law in England and Wales.”

And finally, the House of Commons Joint Committee on Human Rights has published a report regarding the UK’s compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Committee welcomed the progress made by the Government in recognising children’s rights in law and policy but said that more still needs to be done. The Report also points to areas, such as immigration, legal aid and children in custody, where some policy developments have actually worked against the best interests of children, despite the Government’s specific commitment to the Convention on the Rights of the Child made in December 2010. The Committee expressed its disappointment that, during the current period of austerity, children – particularly disadvantaged children – have in certain areas suffered disproportionately, and concluded that the Government’s statutory duty to eliminate child poverty by 2020 should be treated as a human rights issue.