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“Fell far short of the promise foreshadowed in her CV” (radicalisation, Tower Hamlets)

This is the Hayden J judgment in the Tower Hamlets case involving the girl who had tried to go to Syria having been exposed to extremist videos and propaganda of the most alarming kind.

 

I wrote about the early stages of it here,   https://suesspiciousminds.com/2015/08/27/radicalisation-of-children-and-isis-jihadi-brides/    when Hayden J learned that the parents (who had been saying that they were shocked and appalled by what was happening to their daughter) seemed by the analysis by security services of what was being accessed in the home to be more implicated than one might imagine.

 

Part 2 is here : –  London Borough Tower Hamlets and B 2016

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2016/1707.html

 

It makes for extraordinary and shocking reading – and you will learn a LOT about radicalisation cases and how ISIS goes about manipulating and recruiting young people by reading this judgment. I could not recommend it more highly for any professional working within the field, any lawyer who thinks that radicalisation is a feature in one of their cases, or a concerned parent.

 

 

This is some of the material removed from the family home (bear in mind that by this stage, the girl had already made the attempt to go to Syria to become a jihadi bride)

 

 

  • The following material was removed from the household:

 

Document Title Device
“A Muhajid’s Guide to the West” this document contravenes section 58 TACT 2000
Chapter 1 “Hiding the extremist identity”

B’s SD card
“Miracles in Syria”
B’s SD card
“Hijrah to the Islamic State” B’s SD card
H’s Apple Mac Laptop
L’s hard-drive
“The Dust Will Never Settle Down” an audio lecture by Anwar Al-Awlaki est. 2008 B’s Sony Vaio Laptop
H’s Apple Mac Laptop
J’s Samsung Laptop
L’s hard-drive
“The Book of Jihad” an audio lecture by Anwar Al-Awlaki 2003 H’s Apple Mac Laptop
J’s Samsung laptop
L’s hard-drive
“44 ways to support jihad” by Anwar Al-Alwaki
B’s Sony Vaio Laptop
DABIQ and ISN publications H’s USB storage device
L’s hard-drive
Videos Exhibit IDK/36 ‘For the Sake of Allah – Fisabilillah’

Exhibit MAE/5 ‘Upon the Prophetic Methodology – AlFurqaan Media’

Video DSCN2418.AVI – Home video that shows an ALM march

 

  • Some of the material on these videos, all agree, depicts behaviour of appalling human depravity. It includes mass killings, sadistic torture (which I have been advised has symbolic significance and is not merely gratuitous), random killings by youths in a car by using AK47 machine guns, scenes of mass graves and bloodied lakes and killings videoed in such a manner as to create the impression that the viewer is the killer looking through the cross hairs of a telescopic sight attached to a rifle. The written material includes sinister polemics designed to rally ‘good Muslims’ to the cause of jihad. Some of these documents deliver sophisticated messages to the reader, advising them how best to create the impression of social compliance whilst participating in an anarchic agenda. I have personally read much of that material in order to try to equip myself to evaluate the evidence in an informed way, and to alert myself to any potential subterfuge. I cannot imagine how it is that the officers of the CTU manage to view the material I have described whilst remaining inured to it. I feel constrained to observe that which is obvious from the above, that the public owes them a debt of gratitude.

 

 

The girl’s own description of just one video.  (skip this if you are squeamish. In fact, just skip it. You don’t need to read it. You have my permission not to)

 

“I saw a video of men chained together one by one after what was said to have been a battle, who were said to be the prisoners they had taken. They took them to something like a dock/or a sea wall straight onto the sea. They unchained them one by one and shot them in the back of the head so they fell into the water. They sought to portray this like the story of Commander Khalid Bin Waleed who was fighting against the Jews and he made a promise that the river would run red with blood if he won. The water in this video by the end of it was red; they had killed so many people. I’m not sure they were even soldiers at all now, they may well just have been people, ordinary civilians, who didn’t agree with IS coming in and taking over. “

“I saw a lot of videos and scenes of violence. When I first started seeing them I was shocked at the violence. I didn’t like to watch it. I was also accessing a lot of video and other on line material that I now realise was just propaganda. “

 

 

 

First of all, the Court is scathing of the independent social worker who came with high recommendations to this field.  (I don’t want to wish any professional ill, so let’s say that she was perhaps out of her depth on this sort of case)

33.It was pressed upon me by all the advocates for the family, that Ms Rukhsana Thakrar should be appointed as an independent social worker. I was assured that she was well regarded and as a professional Muslim woman not associated with the Local Authority, or the Guardian for that matter, she seemed to me to be well placed to undertake what I identified in my earlier judgment as the need for an ‘intense, thorough and comprehensive assessment’. I must also admit to my aspiration that Ms Thakrar would provide an example to B of the opportunities open to independent Muslim women in the UK. Ms Thakrar has an LLB (Hons), a MA in social work, a CQSW and is an accredited social work practice teacher. She has also worked in the capacity of Guardian ad Litem, CAFCASS officer and asserts in her CV that she ‘specialises’ in ‘working with Muslim families’.

 

 

34.I very much regret to say that Ms Thakrar fell far short of the promise foreshadowed by her CV. In her very lengthy report, which is essentially simple reportage of what the family has said to her, Ms Thakrar missed the opportunity to confront them with my earlier findings and to challenge their various belief structures. Though I am satisfied that her instructions were clear and supplemented by a further set of instructions specifically directing her to the court’s concerns, she appeared to have very little understanding of the nature of the task she was engaged in. Her view of the family was expressed with fulsome positivity, though I have found it impossible to identify any analysis in her report upon which her optimism could be founded. More than that, within a report spanning over 130 pages I have struggled to identify any analysis of any issue in the case. Rather unusually despite the glowing conclusions she advanced, I had no sense that the family had forged any kind of constructive relationship with her either.

 

39.I am constrained to say that Ms Thakrar has fallen, by some distance, below the standard that this court is entitled to expect from an expert witness. In so doing she has failed the children (primarily), the parents and the other professionals in this case who have worked extremely hard to manage a very challenging situation. I have noted that Pauffley J made criticisms of equal magnitude and of similar complexion in Re A, B C & D [2009] EWHC 2136 (Fam) and Re S (A child) (Care Order) [2014] EWHC 529 (Fam).

 

 

(That case can be found here http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2014/529.html    – some key extracts   It seemed to me that Ms Farooqi – Thakrar’s evidence was far from even handed and less than helpful.     

  • This aspect of Ms Farooqi – Thakrar’s recommendation seems to me to be extremely poorly thought through. There was a sense, as she gave her evidence, of her almost making it up as she went along

 

  • It was a further defect in the evidence of Ms Farooqi – Thakrar that she had failed to consider S’s considerable behavioural difficulties. When asked about that aspect, she simply said, `Well, all of this will just disappear when S has been reunited with her mother and I’ve seen it happen in other cases.’ I am surprised, even amazed, that Ms Farooqi – Thakrar was prepared to make forecasts about what would happen in this case relying exclusively upon her experiences in other cases. I do not share her optimism. Moreover I consider such an experiment would be thoroughly risky and altogether ill-advised at this juncture.

 

 

If you are unwrapping a brief tonight and underneath the pink tape is a part 25 application to instruct this ISW tomorrow, I’m sorry that I’ve just ruined your evening )

 

 

 

The Judge was, however, very complimentary about the social work evidence in the case

 

45.Ms Thelma Ukueku is the key social worker in the case, employed by Tower Hamlets. When the deficiencies in Ms Thakrar’s report came to light Ms Ukueku agreed, in the time remaining, to plan and undertake an assessment addressing the risk matrix referred to above. This report was undertaken with a Mr Brian Sharpe and a Ms Juliette Thompson. I heard from Ms Ukueku and Mr Sharpe in evidence. It is an unfortunate fact that Judges have, from time to time, to be critical, sometimes highly critical of social workers. Too often good social work goes without comment or commendation. This case provides some opportunity to remedy that. This family is extremely fortunate that Ms Ukueku was allocated to this case. She has shown unstinting commitment to them, she has been tireless in her determination to help them, she has unhesitatingly sacrificed her own personal time and displayed an impressive mix of intellectual rigour and compassion. Perhaps most importantly, whilst trying to work effectively with the family, she has not shied away from confronting them robustly and directly where she perceives there to be error or inappropriate behaviour. She has, in my view, ‘worked’ the case, in the sense that she has not merely recorded the attitudes or behaviours of the adults, rather she has actively intervened to try to change them where, in her assessment, they are contrary to the interests of the child.

 

 

46.I have mentioned above that I elected not to see the video material in this case. It is rarely necessary for the Judge or the lawyers to do so. It is probably desirable that we should not. The danger that we become inured to it is greater than might initially be thought. Some of the material here is, plainly profoundly shocking. Ms Ukueku took the view that if she were truly to understand what harm B had been subjected to she ought to look at some of the material herself. She told me that on reflection she wished she had not done so. It had caused her real, not merely superficial, distress. She told me how some of the images are lodged in her mind and have from time to time intruded unexpectedly into her thoughts. She twice needed to pause to maintain her composure, as she outlined this to the Court. She told me, at this point, slightly tearfully, that she had been terribly shocked and deeply upset that B had been regularly exposed to such images. It was a powerful and memorable moment in the hearing. I noted that it had some impact on B which seemed to me to be chiefly one of real surprise. I think this was both as to the effect the images had on Ms Ukueku as well as some realisation of the great effort made on her behalf.

 

Powerful stuff. You’ll note from the earlier portion that the Judge himself did not view the material – and I think that he was right not to. There were clear descriptions available from those brave souls in the police and counter-terrorism who did have to watch them. I myself would not feel the need to watch the videos, and if my social workers asked me whether they should, I would tell them not to. If they felt extremely strongly about it I would have asked the Court for an indication that they need not watch them and would not be criticised for failing to do it.  I say this not to make any criticism of anyone involved in this case – but to avoid the risk that because this social worker did so (and now regretting it) puts a benchmark up that others should be expected to do so. If there’s a description of the content of such material and that description is not disputed, I am with Hayden J that it is not necessary for professionals to see it and that it is desirable that we should not.

 

It became apparent during the hearing that the father, who had seen terrible attrocities in Gaza that had profoundly affected him, had shown his children images that they should not have seen.

 

  • It occurs to me that the reason that the father may be so eloquent in articulating the emotional harm caused by such images is that he sustained a similar kind of harm himself as a child. He told Ms Thakrar that as a Berber male from the Algerian community he held some negativity towards the French in their use of tanks in Algeria in the 1950’s. He explained that his family had shown him photographs of this period which he considered revealed French tactics to be ‘unjust and upsetting’ and which plainly had stayed in his memory. In evidence, he drew a comparison with these grainy, black and white photographs of a conflict which pre-dated his birth and the videos seen by B. The moving, ‘living’ pictures in colour and so much more clearly defined were, the father said, much more searing.
  • During the course of the Mother’s evidence the Local Authority applied for permission to produce material from social media. The application, which I granted, was made before the Father went into the witness box. The material included photographs of charred bodies and the cracked skull of a dead infant. These were produced into evidence, I think, during the course of the cross examination of the Father. In any event I did not look at them until the Father was asked to comment on them. I was not expecting to see the kind of images they contained, indeed it took me a moment or two, from the rather poor quality photocopies, to realise what I was looking at. I found them disturbing.
  • The Father told me that he was motivated by the photographs to participate in humanitarian work. I accept that he was. Nonetheless, I had the strong impression, as he responded to questions, that he too had, albeit in a different way to his daughter, become numbed to images of death. Such photographs may well have triggered moral outrage in him, an entirely different dynamic to B’s objectives in looking at the material I have considered above, but for all that I sensed that something of his own ‘pity’ and ‘mercy’, to use his expressions, had been compromised. I do not think that he contemplated that the image of the child might not merely shock people, but that it might provoke a simple human distress reaction for the child which eclipsed the underlying humanitarian objective that he intended. I consider that this resonates with something that he is reported as having told Ms Thakrar:

 

“He stated that when he was in Gaza he had watched what was going on in Gaza. This appears to have been a turning point for [the father]. He stated that he watched Aljazeera Arabic as he felt that Aljazeera gave an accurate picture of what was going on in the world. He also brought back videos and pictures of Muslims being killed and burnt alive. He stated that Palestines (sic) were being killed by Israelis. He found this very haunting and upsetting. He explained to me that his children saw these pictures and they were all upset and crying. It was very clear from his body language and how he spoke that these atrocities had left a deep and lasting impression on him. It also appears from his descriptions that all the children had been deeply moved and upset. Certainly they would have left a deep impression on [B].”

 

  • Once again the father challenges the accuracy of the ISW report, he denies that he told Ms Thakrar that he showed photographs or videos to his children, claiming that she has misreported him. I reject that. There is much in that passage which is plainly accurate. The father was fulsome in evidence about the atrocities in Gaza, as he sees them. He plainly, in my assessment, was affected by what he had seen. He confirmed that he watched Al Jazeera on the basis that he felt that was a reliable chronicler of world events and certainly accepted that he had brought back pictures. All of this is essentially accurately recorded. It is also very much of a piece with his evidence more generally. I may have been critical of Ms Thakrar’s lack of focus and forensic rigour but, as I have already said, I have no reason at all to doubt her integrity. Neither have I found evidence of regular misreporting, in what I remind myself were 84 hours of interviews.
  • I am satisfied that the father did indeed show these children videos or pictures of Muslims being killed and burnt alive. I consider that in the heat of his own outrage he was motivated to do so by what I have loosely referred to as humanitarian instincts. Having been shown disturbing photographs of death himself as a child I do not think that he has ever extrapolated from that, that it is entirely inappropriate to present children with such images. He does not appear to have absorbed that childhood innocence needs to be protected and that he as a father has that responsibility. His failure to rise to those obligations is, in my assessment of the evidence, critical to what has happened to B. I also consider that like B, he too has become desensitised, on a basic human level, to images of child and adult suffering. His response is ideological rather than visceral.

 

 

 

Hayden J also makes some important points about the standard of proof in these cases  (I think most readers know my views about the cases of radicalisation decided by other Judges, where admittedly the analysis and evidence done by the security services came nowhere near the amount of detail that Hayden J had available to him)

 

52.Cases involving allegations of radicalisation do not require any greater standard of proof than any other allegation in Family Law proceedings. Any impression to the contrary requires to be dispelled

 

 

 

56.In Re X (Children) (No 3) [2015] EWHC 3651 (Fam) the President said §110 ‘There are, as I have noted, many matters on which I am suspicious, but suspicion is not enough, nor is surmise, speculation or assertion.’

 

 

57.I am confident that the President was there intending to emphasise the importance of evidential discipline and forensic rigour. He was not, for a moment, suggesting that in the application of the civil standard of proof the Court is in anyway prohibited from drawing reasonable inferences from ascertainable facts. There is plainly an important distinction between suspicion and inference, the two should not be conflated.

 

 

It is pleasing to hear that this girl is drawing back from the extremist position that she was once being seduced by and was showing some insight and reflection into what was wrong with the material that she was seeing  (that has to be hedged by the knowledge that material was being accessed in that house that taught how to lie, conceal, suppress your views and pacify those investigating them, but let us be optimists rather than gloomy pessimists)

 

The Judge had the unenviable task of deciding where B should live. He looked hard at all of the issues (this blog doesn’t have space to go into all of it, but if you are having a reaction to his conclusion I would suggest that you take the time to read the judgment itself) and how B had fared in care over the last nine months.

 

 

  • Unsurprisingly, B wants to go home, she is rather desperate to do so. She is sad and lonely and misses her siblings, particularly her younger brother. She is being phlegmatic about life with Mr and Mrs J but I think she senses a loneliness for her there too. So do I. Mr & Mrs J have their own interests and commitments, these are understandably not structured around a teenage girl and will require much renegotiation in their lives. I was told that their commitments do not enable them to allocate a great deal of time to helping B make the transition to their home over the summer months, were that to be the plan.
  • Many teenagers of this age, who find themselves in the care system, simply take matters into their own hands or to use the term frequently heard in these Courts ‘they vote with their feet’. For the duration of the Care Order i.e. until she is 18 (in just over 12 month’s time) I think it unlikely that B would do so. To some extent, her experience of the Court system has been salutary. After that I do not know. She will be beyond my remit and able to exercise her own adult autonomy. Should she return to her parents home at that point and there may be pressure for her to do so, she will once again interrupt her education and potentially damage her academic prospects. Though it may not seem the obvious solution, in the light of my findings above, I have come to the conclusion that the plan most likely to meet B’s needs is to return her home. I identify the following reasons:

 

i) The circumstances of B’s radicalisation involved a combination of factors and influences unique to her situation;

ii) B’s brothers and sisters do not share her beliefs and are likely to be resistant to them;

iii) B is most likely to rediscover her own intellectual autonomy in a home environment where she is happy and loved;

iv) I think it likely that the siblings will challenge B’s extremist beliefs, even without intending to do so;

v) B will enrol in a local college if she returns home;

vi) I think it likely that B will respond enthusiastically to a wider social group at college, holding inevitably different opinions and beliefs. Her lively intellect is likely to be stimulated by the exchange of ideas. It is worth emphasising that B has never attended school before;

vii) Whilst I consider that B’s admissions in this court are driven by her pragmatic evaluation of the evidence against her, as she herself volunteered, there is nonetheless an underlying sincerity to her own description of the numbing effect that these awful videos have had on her. This has the potential to be a breakthrough in combating what she has described as her ‘addiction’ to violent and death related images;

viii) In the last 9 months the Local Authority’s Care Plan has been able to provide a sustained period in which B has not seen the kind of images that have caused her such harm. This occurred at a crucial stage in her development and has enabled her to gain the tentative insights I have referred to above. (As I know B will read this judgment carefully, I wish her to appreciate a simple and unvarnished truth: those who do not empathise with human pain and suffering will never make effective doctors, it is intrinsic to the core motivation of the profession);

ix) The family has a proactive social worker who has demonstrated that she will not be naïve and will not be deflected by controlling or manipulative behaviour. The plans for all the children should enable them to get space from their mother. In particular, the mother should not attend the children’s Prevent sessions and neither should she collect the children from school;

x) Having recognised the impact of death related images on his daughter, I have some confidence that the father will restrain from sharing such images with her in the future. This he might like formally to undertake to the Court, knowing that he might be sent to prison should he breach his own undertaking;

xi) I also consider that this family can be more easily monitored when together rather than separated. I have no doubt that the police and the social services will be vigilant concerning the use of computers in this household;

She was therefore placed at home under a Care Order. All we can do now is wish her and her family well and hope that their lives take a different course than might have developed by exposure to such dreadful, graphic imagery which would give the most robust adult terrible nightmares.

At the very end of the judgment, the Judge records the general advice given by Professor Silke and Dr Brown in radicalisation cases, and that’s really something to be circulated to absolutely any professional working in this area – it contains invaluable information and guidance, in a very clear and easy to follow style and language.

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About suesspiciousminds

Law geek, local authority care hack, fascinated by words and quirky information; deeply committed to cheesecake and beer.

26 responses

  1. Pingback: “Fell far short of the promise foreshadow...

  2. “I don’t want to wish any professional ill, so let’s say that she was perhaps out of her depth on this sort of case” – even expressed parenthetically, Andrew, this is simply an apology for the sort of unacceptable incompetence which flourishes in the closed world of the secret courts, and part of the reason that it persists. This woman’s reports have been affecting the course of the lives of thousands of real families! Every case in which she has produced a report ought to be re-opened, but won’t be.

    • Rukhsana Thakrar

      This is unacceptable I am a very experienced professional and I was not out my depth. I have composed a detailed response on linked in. I am very child centered and child focused. If you look carefully at the Judgement you will see references to my assessment. The Judge changed his position in respect of the father because my assessment. Rukhsana Farooqi Thakrar

    • Wasn’t intended to be an apology – I am just cautious about going further than the judicial conclusions in two cases, which I think are significant. Though of course, only two cases, and I don’t know this expert from any others or any personal experience.

      In any event, we now have the benefit of the expert’s own response, so people can make up their own mind. [Yes, that’s a lawyer-y response, yes, that’s because I’m a lawyer]

      • Rukhsana Farooqi Thakrar

        thanks I can only reiterate both cases were complex. One involving an assessment of a mother in Pakistan who despite being a party to the proceeding did not take part because no video link was set up and father did not have a trained interpreter. Outside court I was informed that the foster carers go to Pakistan for a holiday. As I was going anyway when asked if a further assessment could be undertaken in Pakistan. It was my assessment with planning this could happen. I regularly assess in Pakistan. I have an expertise in this area and I have assessed for many Local Authorities and have set up a small team in Pakistan. I actually requested a professionals meeting to discuss this. Some Judges do not include all the complexities in their Judgements others do. Certainly my 2 reports and all my oral evidence was not referred to. But my reports were disclosed for the mother’s immigration case.
        In the Re B case I was concerned the young person had been left in a unit which I did not consider was neutral as on my first visit pork sausages were being fried. As the only Muslim expert appointed despite repeated requests I was not allowed access to the police material. I know from other cases, arrangements are made without requests. I believe not all the parties saw the material. I know if I had seen it as Muslim expert I could have made some comments about the material. The experts that did see the material did not assess the parents or young person. Again I did request a professionals meeting. I was concerned about fragmentation and lack of dialogue between professionals.
        Radicalisation is a new area and we are all learning. It is my view that it is better to try and help families and young people to change providing there is no risk to wider society and the community at large. It is important for Muslim experts to be used as it assists the parents and young people to think and communicate. Through my intervention the children were placed in schools and the parent embarked on couple work at an excellant institution.
        It is important to remember that these families are part of the wider Muslim community and I feel a humane approach was needed. After spending over 80 hours with the family and young person I do not feel that they are a risk. I am an experienced practitioner and I spend time thinking about my work hence my research at the Tavistock clinic.
        The blame culture has to stop and we need to work together in assessing black and ethnic minority families.
        I know Judges have a very difficult task and I hope that I can provide assistance. Unfortunately my expertise was not respected. However despite this there are some wonderful and wise Judges in the Uk. I hope one day we can come together in a work shop to discuss all these complexities. Radicalisation is certainly an area that is not fully understood in my opinion. We need to work together and respect each other. I will continue to reflect and think about my practice.
        Your truly Rukhsana Farooqi Thakrar

      • Thank you. I think that cases like this certainly raise a legitimate point that if Judges do propose to make very critical remarks about an expert in a case (an expert whose livelihood can be seriously affected by such remarks) there ought to perhaps be a mechanism for that where the Judge raises the concerns with the expert in advance and allows a response/representations. Of course that’s not necessary in a case where the Judge just concludes that they are not going to follow the expert’s advice – that’s always a matter ultimately for the Judge – but where the judgment is critical of quality to that extent, perhaps there should be a dialogue of some kind about what the Judge considered were shortcomings.

        It MIGHT be that slightly too much detail about the cases which are not already in the public domain from the judgments are contained in your responses – and if anyone involved in the case would want me to edit those bits out, I would do it, but I did feel it was important to let this expert respond in her own words.

        It is easy to forget sometimes that we are dealing with people, and people who have feelings and sensitivities.

        And I could not agree more that these radicalisation cases are extraordinarily difficult, and that all of us are learning as we go along. It wasn’t an issue that even existed before Holman J’s 2013 judgment in private law raised it as an issue, and that’s a very short period of time in terms of developing expertise and strategy and the right tools to assess risk and change in such a complex area.

  3. Rukhsana Farooqi Thakrar

    My post was in response to the suspicious minds article on the Re B case.

    It really made me feel very sad to read it. I have worked across a number of panels as a Children’s Guardian from 1996.I am 52 years old and the welfare and best interests of children has always been the focus of my work. I was one of the few practitioners working in public and private law prior to the formation of CAFCASS. I started working for NYAS since 1996 and left a few years ago. I have been assessing in Pakistan, Bangladesh and India for the last 10 years and I have developed a small team in Pakistan. I have a particular expertise in assessing Muslim families. I am a Muslim myself but no way extreme. My brother is a Professor of Medicine and was awarded an OBE. I believe we should try and help children and families to change and to keep children and young people safe. I have therefore trained as a counsellor, I have undertaken therapeutic work at the Tavistock clinic and currently completing a Professional Doctorate supervised by Professor Andrew Cooper and Dr Onel Brookes. I think and reflect about my work and try to look underneath the surface. I therefore urge others to do this. It is very important. Rukhsana Farooqi

    ShareShare time to think and reflect

    Rukhsana Farooqi Consultant Social Worker

    • Rukhsana Farooqi

      Yes quite I have some expertise as I was praised by the President on the Re M case. I have worked on other radicalisation cases both in the UK and Pakistan.

      • Rukhsana Farooqi Thakrar

        Kiran new team offering advice, consultation and assessments for children and families with concerns around radicalisation.

        Dr Yohai Hakak, Dr Aamir Ehajaz, Dr Sohail Mahmood and myself have formed a team to assist families and professionals.

        Please contact 07958 295831 or rukhsanapakistan@gmail.com

        The full profile is available.

    • Rukhsana Farooqi Thakrar

      I plan to write a paper on this through my role as writer/researcher at the Tavistock clinic.
      There are number of points to think about when undertaking these assessments.
      I. it is imperative that the court holds a fact finding prior to any expert being instructed.
      2. If there is police material it is vital the expert undertaking the parenting/risk assessment sees this.
      3. There are existing frameworks that can be used as the assessments I have undertake show family dysfunction, issues within the couple relationship/ marital difficulties. Issues around indentity and belonging to mainstream British society and following and knowing the expectations. The community that the family live in is important as there will be socio/political issues that may inform how the family is functioning.
      4. Understanding what Islam means and how to practice Islam. It is very important the assessors are Muslim or understand Islam.
      5. It is vital the agreed expert is agreed by all parties otherwise the family/ young person will be subject to a number of assessments and professionals will not work together.
      6. A professionals meeting is important as it allows to bring all the information together and it ensures the splits that some of the families are used to do not happen.
      Finally I have set up a team to offer assessments/consultation on cases involving radicalisation. It is called Kiran. It consists of myself, Dr Yohai Hakak expertise in mental health and radicalisation, Dr Sohail Mahmood Political analyst and we are hoping Professor Tahir Abbas will join us. The number to contact this team is 07958 295831.
      best wishes
      Rukhsana Farooqi Social Work Consultant.

  4. I have been thinking of those occasions, and I’ve seen many, where social work assessments and sometimes thresholds, include that the child was watching movies rated 15 or playing Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty.

    in this case, the father was showing his children photographs of charred bodies, cracked skulls of infants and of people being burned alive. That’s an entirely different character of concern.

    Here, the father had his own strong reasons for doing so, whereas usually it is a lack of thought or lack of consideration that leads to a 9 year old watching horror movies or playing violent video games. Does that make it better, or worse?

    • Rukhsana Farooqi Thakrar

      It is normally good practice for experts and the parties to see all the evidence held by the police particularly for a fact finding. As far I can see the perception of the Judge of the father changed. Perhaps we can leave this now. I reiterate my experience. I have assessed all over Pakistan and the Uk as an Independent Social Worker and prior to that as a Children’s Guardian/ Family Court adviser and prior to CAFCASS as Guardian ad Litem since 1996 and Family court welfare officer. I have worked in Child and Adolescent Mental Health and undertaken clinical work at the Tavistock clinic. Perhaps this family now need to be given a chance as I felt there was a change. After spending 80 hours I think I can safely say this. People that know me will know how tough I am in my assessments.
      all the best Rukhsana

      • Rukhsana Farooqi Thakrar

        Also seriously think about it why would I put my career on the line. I have no shortage of work and I work really hard. I have continued my training and development. The supervisors of my professional doctorate which is in it last stages are Professor Andrew Cooper and Dr Onel Brookes. Both psychotherapists and believe me they are tough. I have had to undergo therapy as I trained as a counsellor and for my clinical work. I am trained in child observation. I have made many recommendations where children and young people have not returned to their parents. But when I see a shift and work that actually can be done with a family unit it is my view that this must happen if it is safe to do so. Although I am criticised there are many aspects of my assessment that are accepted as the young person has gone back as I felt the key for her was her relationship with her parents and their couple relationship and ongoing family work. I know I have adapted my training from the Tavistock clinic, TCCR to the way I assess but I feel I do enable the parents I assess to look at a deeper level. I remain of the view that there is no risk from this family or young person and hopefully one day they will be able to assist other families in their position. Perhaps they may even tell their story in some way so that others can understand what was going for them. ( Something for a researcher).
        It was difficult piece of work because Radicalisation is a new area. In this case I felt that I was in someways marginalised for being a Muslim professional.
        This is my first experience of this form of treatment previously my knowledge of Islam has been an asset.
        I was not allowed to see the police material that was relevant and I had to balance this with seeing a Young person in an environment that I felt was not in the YP’s best interests. It was my assessment the YP had learnt their lesson and had time to think and reflect. I also saw some shifts in the parents and they did open up to me despite what may come across in the judgement. I asked for the professionals meeting that was promised but it never happened and I will never know why.
        I really cannot say anymore as there has to be closure on this now from my point of view. I do hope the team I have set up will be given a chance as my colleagues are excellant and in the end we have to work together.
        Although the blame culture does trouble me somewhat. Never mind.

  5. Someone remind me why we stop people going to Syria and even worse let them back after they go?

    • Rukhsana Farooqi

      The reasons are complex and each case has to be considered on an individual basis. However if people are able to reflect and change there are skilled practitioners in the UK to assist. Surely we must try to do this. The parents and young people that have been subject to public law proceedings will ultimately be able to assist as they know the changes they have had to make. We live in a humane society. Regards Rukhsana Farooqi

    • You might like the next blog I plan, which relates to the woman who actually made it to Syria with her toddler and then came back. Hopefully tonight.

      • Rukhsana Farooqi

        Then she did the right thing. Hopefully she will receive the right input in the Uk.

      • I’d like to stop with the references now. By all means have them on your website though.

      • Rukhsana Farooqi

        I will but please do not post about my work without checking out the experience of the person being commented on. There were some very complex dynamics on the cases that were reported on and I was scapegoated. I have the experience in the area of assessing on radicalisation and assessment of Pakistani/ Muslim families in the Uk and abroad.
        All the best Rukhsana

      • As this is a law blog, reporting on law cases, where a High Court Judge makes such strong comments, I will report on them.

      • Rukhsana Farooqi

        Ok but I will respond back with my views as only the transcript of the hearing and reading my report can give a true account of what I said. The Judge was very clear that he did not question my integrity or independence.
        Yours truly Rukhsana

      • I have no idea what the reply means

  6. Rukhsana Thakrar

    It means with the case involving the mother assessed by myself in Pakistan. I was informed that there was a conversation with mother on the telephone where she apparently stated something which questioned her commitment to her daughter.However when I tried to telephone her to set up appointments it was very difficult as the signal kept going. I therefore texted her with the appointments for the assessment in Pakistan. When I visited her home I found out why there was a problem with the signal . She iived on a hill and it was very difficult using a mobile phone in that location. I was very impressed with her parenting of her daughter who lived with her in Pakistan. I completed the assessment as I have completed many others in Pakistan. The difficult emerged when she was unable to get a visa to come to the UK for a further assessment here with the child in question who by all accounts missed her mother and sister. I was emailed after I wrote the first report out the blue asking if I could write an addendum in a very short period of time and attend court. I agreed to do this and I was asked about an assessment in Pakistan as the mother was unable to get to the Uk. I asked for a professionals meetings as this is something very difficult to discuss on one’s own in a report. The Guardian opposed this meeting and asked about Independent social work whilst we waiting to go in as he was resigning from Cafcass. I was also informed that the foster carers go to Pakistan for a holiday and there were no particular mental health issues for the YP as no child and adolescent psychiatric opinion had been obtained. In court there was no court appointed interpreter for for father but a community worker who had been roped into interpreting for him. There was no video link for the mother who was party to the proceedings. So no one heard her evidence or crossed examined her. When I gave my evidence I gave many examples of similiar cases and offered to arrange for another child placed in Pakistan to speak to this young person if she was nervous about Pakistan. Most of oral evidence was ignored and my reports barely mentioned.I made out to be a stupid and incompetent practitioner yet I have been assessing in Pakistan since Andy Elvin former CEO of CFAB asked me to start work there and I have set up a small team and now have quite an expertise.
    I was going anyway to undertake work and I believed the assessment could be done safely and the mother posed no risk. As it was despite being criticized my reports were disclosed for the immigration case for the mother. I was not present when the criticism was made and I was unable to defend myself. But what poor Judicial practice to hold a final hearing when one party is in another country and is not allowed to part take when a video link can easily be arranged and why not have a court appointed interpreter for the father. I question this because the parents were unable to speak English and did not know their rights but of course it impacted on the child as she was being denied a life with her mother and sister. Although I know the mothers immigration appeal was successful and she is currently living in the Uk. I have an expertise in these types of assessment so why completely discredit me as a practitioner and since then I have assessed many Muslim families and it has not been my assessments solely that have resulted in decisions made for children but the rest of the network that is involved with the children and parents. Also I have seen excellent Judicial practice where interpreters and video links are used creatively.
    In respect of the Justice Hayden Judgement
    I actually assessed another case before Justice Hayden in January 2016 in Pakistan when I was commissioned to locate a baby who had been born in Lahore where it was being considered whether or not this baby should be made a ward of court. I managed to find the baby despite a telephone number given for a location in Karachi but in actual fact the parent was living on the border of India and Pakistan. I had to get the police out and was there from 2pm to 8pm or later. By the time I left the the whole village came out as they thought I had come to take the child and the parent wanted to get the Pakistani media out as the media had been involved in the Uk. After my report was filed it resulted in proceedings ending in the Uk. It takes quite an expertise to undertake such an assessment. However no mention was made of this assessment. I have gone on to do many others all equally difficult and complex.
    In respect of Re B. I received three different drafts of the letter of instruction. I had a long list of questions. With the original very critical judgement I did not experience the family in the same way after 80 hours of assessing I think someone of my experience can assess the risk. One does not just look at what people say but the body language and facial expressions. It has to be remembered no one else was going to the home apart from myself. The contacts were with no faults or difficulties and I really probed and questioned the parents. They revealed many things but there is no real reference to any of this in the Judgement. The unit where the YP was placed was not equipped for a Muslim female. I heard statements like they could not take her to a certain city( too many Muslims), issues over how to cook halal food and frying pork sausages. I was unclear for the months that this YP was there what work was actually done with her. My analysis uncovered difficulties in the family system and couple relationship and the issues of identity and unresolved issues in the parents own parenting and early life which made them connect together. It was so clear that the family required therapeutic work. So my approach was different. I filed on time but I was constantly informed by those instructing me that the Judge did not want a fact finding. I felt that the famiily and YP had made shifts and I was being denied a viewing of the police material despite four requests. Comments were made by the unit manager that I would not be allowed to see this material and ultimately I was denied and the Local Authority made no arrangements for me to see this material. I did go ahead and complete my risk assessment and analysis based on how the family presented to me.
    What could I do if I was being denied the right to see vital material. Even when this was known no arrangement was made for me to see this material and no professionals meeting arranged to discuss a very complex case. So the thinking remained fragmented between the professionals in my opinion as really no one really wanted to know what I had to say. I was brought in late( the outsider) and I am afraid I was treated as the outsider( in other words what do you know), The other dynamic was the parents kept saying that they wanted a Muslim social worker and this upset the allocated social worker who felt the parents were not cooperating with her. So I would question why was I asked to undertake this assessment at all?
    I was informed the case( Re M) I had completed where the President was the Judge was not as complex I would ask how do people know. It was complex but the difference was the gentler and more humane approach used by the President and the close working relationship between all the professionals and that is precisely what is required in these complex radicalisation cases.Otherwise someone will always be blamed and scapegoated and unfortunately I was and have been.
    So what is going on, why does this happen as I have completed so many assessments over the last 2 years alone( not forgetting over 20 years of experience) both abroad and the Uk. Many cases I have not recommended children return to their parents all cases of black/ethnic minority families some with international connections. I have been all over Pakistan, Karachi, Peshawar, North, South rural and cities. The same with India and Bangladesh and I have assessed in so many parts of the Uk. I think in the end my expertise and my knowledge of the respective families I assessed was not valued or respected. It may have been despite being 52 years old I look 35 years or I am a slim ” Asian” woman. Perhaps I do not look as if I have all this experience and knowledge. Perhaps this is the real reason that my CV is being questioned. But yes I do have all the experience and qualifications.
    However when Justice Hayden’s parting comment was “go and sort your head out”. I was left very upset and I wondered why such a statement should be made to me and how I actually do not deserve such a comment. It has to be remembered for years I have been studying and thinking and reflecting at the Institute of Psychiatry and at the Tavistock clinic.( Msc in mental health social work/Advanced Award and completing a Professional Doctorate.
    The sad thing is that this Judgement has made people question my competency and I do not deserve this. I am also sure Justice Hayden did not mean for this to happen. I also wish him no ill as I do believe he was in a very difficult position. This is why Professionals meetings are so important. I always used to hold them if I could as a Guardian. People have to talk as long it is documented.
    best wishes Rukhsana

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