Court rules in favor of children’s relocation to maternal relatives following family tragedy, prioritizing welfare and risk management.

Citation: [2013] EWHC 2299 (Fam)
Judgment on


The case of Al-Hilli (Children) [2013] EWHC 2299 (Fam) is concerned with the welfare and future arrangements for two children, Zainab and Zeena Al-Hilli, following the tragic death of their parents and grandmother. The judgment, delivered by The Honourable Mr. Justice Baker, serves as a definitive guide on the application of the welfare principle and the management of risk in living arrangements, within the ambit of the Children Act 1989.

Key Facts

In this instance, the care proceedings required careful consideration due to the unique circumstances surrounding the tragic event that the children experienced. The court had to determine whether it was in the children’s best interest to move from their current foster placement to live with their maternal aunt, uncle, and cousin. Critical to this decision was the express wishes of the children, the benefits of familial upbringing, and the ongoing risk posed to their safety stemming from the unresolved murders of their family members. Notably, both the social services assessment of the relatives and police protection strategies played a critical role in the decision-making process.

The paramount legal principle applied in this case is the welfare principle as enshrined in Section 1 of the Children Act 1989. This principle mandates that the court’s primary consideration should be the welfare of the children. Mr. Justice Baker judiciously balanced the benefits of the children being raised within their natural family and the risks posed to their safety due to the past violent crimes against their family.

The judgment engaged with the concept of family preservation, the psychological benefits to the children, and the risk assessment protocols utilized by the police to ascertain the level of threat to the children. The court’s role in scrutinizing care plans and risk assessments to ensure the children’s welfare reflects the duty entrusted to the judiciary to act as a safeguarding authority for minors in care proceedings.


The court unequivocally concluded that it was in the best interests of Zainab and Zeena Al-Hilli to reside with their maternal relatives. The judgment directs the local authority and the police to put in place a care plan for the children’s relocation, consistently emphasizing the need for continued protection measures, including armed police protection.

This outcome underscores the judiciary’s commitment to uphold the welfare principle while concurrently recognizing and mitigating risks. Such an approach ensures that the children’s need to be part of a family environment does not overshadow the legitimate concern for their physical safety.


The Al-Hilli (Children) judgment provides an insightful exemplar on the application of the welfare principle in conjunction with risk management. Justice Baker’s decision reflects a nuanced and considerate application of the Children Act 1989 provisions. It underscores the importance of establishing detailed care plans with strong security measures, emphasizing a multidisciplinary approach involving social services and law enforcement agencies in securing the well-being of children under the court’s jurisdiction. This case reinforces the paramountcy of the child’s welfare in care proceedings and serves as a compelling guide for future cases with similarly complex scenarios.