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P (Circumcision Child in Care) [2021] EWHC 1616

Application to circumcise a boy subject to an interim care order

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This case concerned P, a 21-month old boy, who was the subject of an interim care order in favour of the local authority and had been placed with his maternal aunt and uncle at birth. Both parents accepted that they could not care for P and it was likely that he would be made the subject of Special Guardianship Orders in favour of the maternal aunt and uncle. During the course of the interim care order, the parents had been offered contact three times per week with P, but neither of them had taken this up since late 2020.

Both parents were Muslim and sought for P to be circumcised. The mother's application was opposed by both the local authority and the Guardian. Though they were not parties themselves, the maternal aunt and uncle also felt that P should not be circumcised at present, though were committed to promoting his Muslim faith, including adhering to a broadly halal diet.

The Judge noted that there did not appear to be any High Court or Court of Appeal decision around the issue of male circumcision in public law proceedings. Having reference to the legislation and private law authorities, he distilled a number of guiding principles [27] and highlighted the need for the matter to be brought to court swiftly. In respect of the current proceedings, Mr Justice Cobb viewed the decision as "finely balanced" but ultimately refused the mother's application. His position was influenced in particular by: the parents' lack of contact with P; their failure to provide age-appropriate books about Islam to him; the fact that P's brothers were not circumcised (nor had the parents sought for them to be); and the views of P's carers. The Judge agreed that P should be brought up in the Muslim faith and was satisfied that the maternal aunt and uncle would encourage this.

Case summary by Bianca Jackson, Barrister, Coram Chambers

For full case, please see BAILII