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Oxfordshire County Council v AD & Ors [2019] EWFC B66

Application by consent to vary FGM protection orders to allow greater freedom to travel

Facts
The parents had four children including three girls aged 19 (CD), 17 (ED) and 15 (FD) in December 2019.

The family were from country X but came to the UK in August 2016 for the father's work. They had been due to return in July 2017 but in March 2017 CD reported to her GP that she feared plans had been made for all three girls to undergo FGM upon their return, at the instigation of their paternal grandmother.

The Local Authority (Oxfordshire County Council) then applied to the Court for FGM protection orders and Emergency Protection Orders, which were granted and the girls were removed from their parents' care. Care proceedings followed. The girls were then returned to their mother (AD) as there was evidence that they were at no risk while they remained in England, however the parents acknowledged that they would be unable to protect the girls should they return to Country X. The father (BD) then returned to Country X as originally planned in July 2017.

The final hearing was heard in August 2017 and HHJ Hughes found that the risks to the children and their mother were so overwhelming that they could not possibly return safely to Country X. The FGM orders therefore remained in force and the girls were made the subject of care orders. At the time the family's immigration status was unresolved.

The present applications in front of HHJ Vincent
In January 2018 the mother and her children were given leave to remain in this country for five years. Since the previous proceedings no attempts were made to remove the girls from the jurisdiction. CD is now an adult and her care order has expired.

Oxfordshire County Council applied in October 2019 to discharge the care orders in respect of ED and FD and to vary the FGM protection orders to reflect that the girls should be allowed the opportunity to travel around the world, albeit that they are still at risk should they travel to Country X.

All parties consented to the local authority's applications.

In her judgment, HHJ Vincent testified to the great courage and resilience of the family and highlighted the support and help that they had received from a number of different sources. HHJ Vincent was satisfied that the care orders should be discharged as there were no concerns at all about the mother's ability to parent her children.

Regarding the FGM protection order, HHJ Vincent was satisfied that risks remained around FGM should the girls return to Country X at this time. She agreed that all three sisters should continue to have the protection of the FGM protection order, but stated that there had to be a balance between making protective orders and allowing the girls freedom to travel as they wished.

It was HHJ Vincent's view that the sisters were mature and sensible girls who could be trusted to make decisions for themselves about travel plans. There was no pressure from the parents for them to return to Country X.

HHJ Vincent agreed that the restrictions in respect of CD's travel should be discharged and that the orders restricting ED and FD's ability to travel should remain in place only until they are eighteen. HHJ Vincent was satisfied given the short period of time that the orders had left to run that it was proportionate that these orders should cover neighbouring countries to Country X.

Case summary by Rachel Schon, barrister, Garden Court Chambers

Read the full judgment of Oxfordshire County Council v AD & Ors [2019] EWFC B66 on BAILII