Five schoolgirls subject to travel bans attend the same Tower Hamlets school as the three girls who allegedly travelled to Syria last month to join the Islamic State. The eight girls, aged between 15 and 16, all attend Bethnal Green Academy and are thought to be friends.
The name of the school was revealed after the Press Association pursued a legal challenge in an attempt to lift reporting restrictions. PA argued it was in the public interest to reveal the link to the school, as parents considering sending their children to schools in the area had a “right to know”.
Barrister Christopher Barnes, for Tower Hamlets Council, and Barrister Jennifer Carter-Manning, for the Metropolitan Police, argued against naming the school, as they said it would risk the possibility of identification and the girls might suffer as a result. The court heard it was very likely staff and students at the academy already knew the five girls, however, and it would be inconsequential to reveal the name of the school.
The judge, Mr Justice Hayden, who had previously made an order preventing the girls from being identified, ruled that it could be reported that all eight girls attended the school.
He issued the five girls with a travel ban on March 20 after alarms were raised by social workers who were concerned the girls might flee to areas of Syria controlled by Isis. He said sometimes the law had to “intervene to protect young people from themselves”.
A Tower Hamlets Council spokesperson said: “We welcome the judge’s ruling to uphold the original decision to confiscate the pupil’s passports for their own safety. Keeping children safe is our highest priority. This step has not been taken lightly but we came to the conclusion that it was in the best interests of the young people involved to take this course of action. We work closely with the Metropolitan Police, parents and schools to do everything we can to ensure the safety and security of local young people. The fact that this friendship group all attend the same school is no reflection on the school or the work that they have been doing to address this issue.”
It is thought applications for the travel bans were lodged in light of the disappearance of Kadiza Sultana, 16, Shamima Begum and Amira Abase, both 15, in mid-February. A fourth girl from the same school, Sharmeena Begun, 15, left about two months before the three girls. All four teenagers are now thought to be in Raqqa, an Isis stronghold in Syria.