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Re Al-Hilli (Children) [2013] EWHC 2299 (Fam)

Summary of judgment in care proceedings involving two children whose parents and grandmother had been killed.

Neutral Citation Number: [2013] EWHC 2299 (Fam)
Case No: FD12P02113 & FD12C00524

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE
FAMILY DIVISION

Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
Date: 26/07/2013

Before :

THE HONOURABLE MR JUSTICE BAKER
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IN THE MATTER OF THE CHILDREN ACT 1989
AND IN THE MATTER OF AL-HILLI (CHILDREN)

Between :

SURREY COUNTY COUNCIL Applicant

- and - 

ZAINAB AL-HILLI (1) Respondents

-and-

ZEENA AL-HILLI (2)
(both through their Children's Guardian)

-and-

FADWA AL-SAFFAR (3)

-and -

AHMED MAHMOOD(4)

-and-

THE CHIEF CONSTABLE OF SURREY(5) 
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Sarah Morgan Q.C. and Sharon Segal (instructed by Local Authority Solicitor) for the Applicant
Melanie Carew
(instructed by CAFCASS) for the 1st and 2nd Respondents
James Turner Q.C.
and Jane DeZonie (instructed by Gordon Dadds LLP ) for 3rd and 4th Respondents
Fiona Barton Q.C.
and Robert Cohen (instructed by Force solicitor, Surrey Police ) for the 5th Respondents

Hearing dates: 22nd – 24th July 2013
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SUMMARY OF JUDGMENT
.............................

THE HONOURABLE MR JUSTICE BAKER
This summary of judgment is being handed down in private on 26th July 2013. It consists of 4 pages and has been signed and dated by the judge.  The judge hereby gives leave for it to be reported.

The summary is being distributed on the strict understanding that in any report no person other than the advocates or the solicitors instructing them (and other persons identified by name in the judgment itself) may be identified by name or location and that in particular the anonymity of the children and the adult members of their family must be strictly preserved, save that all information within this summary may be published.


The Honourable Mr. Justice Baker :
1. In these care proceedings, the court is considering the future of Zainab and Zeena Al-Hilli, the two little girls who were involved in the horrific shootings in Annecy, France in September 2012 in which their parents and grandmother were killed. Reporting of the proceedings is restricted, pursuant but, pursuant to the power conferred on me by s.97(4) of the Children Act 1989, I am authorising publication of this short summary of my decision today, including the names of the girls. However, reporting of any further detail of the circumstances of the girls and of the arrangements for their care remains prohibited.

2. This week the court has been asked to conduct an analysis of the benefits and risks arising if the girls move from their current foster placement to live with their maternal aunt, uncle and cousin. There are many benefits which would follow if the court follows this course. Zainab and Zeena have made it clear that they want to live with their aunt and uncle and cousin with whom they have a warm and close relationship. It is plainly in their interests to be brought up within their natural family. Such a placement will sustain links with their family background and may help them over time to come to terms with their tragic loss. The aunt and uncle have been carefully assessed by social services, who have concluded that they have the capacity to care for the girls in these very difficult circumstances which will include a level of police protection. They have been described as thoughtful, patient and family-oriented. Having seen and heard them give evidence, I agree with that description.

3. On the other hand, the court must take into account the risk of future harm. There remains a risk that whoever was responsible for the murders may try to harm the girls again. As a result of that risk, the police have conducted regular assessments of the level of risk, and have taken protective measures in the light of that assessment. At present, the level of risk is assessed as low, but if they move to live with their uncle and aunt in the community it is likely to rise. The police do not, however, say that the level of risk is such that they should not be placed with the aunt and uncle. Wherever they live, they will continue to be subject to police protection including, for the time being at least, armed protection.

4. Having considered the evidence as to the benefits and risk, in the context of section 1 of the Children Act 1989, I conclude that it would be in the best interests of the girls to go to live with their aunt, uncle and cousin. I therefore direct the local authority, in consultation with the police and other agencies, to devise a care plan to enable that move to take place as soon as possible.

5. The court is extremely grateful on behalf of the girls for the work carried out by all the professionals in this case, and in particular to the foster carer who, despite the unique pressures arising in this case, has looked after them with dedication and devotion.