Monday 25 June 2018

Schoolgirl 'radicalised' by IS propaganda must be removed from home, judge rules

An IS militant holds the group's flag as he stands on a tank captured from Syrian government forces, in the town of Qaryatain, Syria (Rased News Network, a Facebook page affiliated with Islamic State militants, via AP)
An IS militant holds the group's flag as he stands on a tank captured from Syrian government forces, in the town of Qaryatain, Syria (Rased News Network, a Facebook page affiliated with Islamic State militants, via AP)

John Aston

A schoolgirl "fully-radicalised" by Islamic State propaganda must be removed from her family home, the High Court has ruled.

A Family Division judge said the "intelligent, educated, ambitious" 16-year-old from east London, who has already attempted to travel to Syria to become a "jihadi bride", must be taken away from her "deceitful parents" and from a household full of terrorist propaganda - including pictures of beheadings and material on bomb making and how jihadists should "hide" their identity.

Mr Justice Hayden, sitting in London, said the girl, who can only be referred to as "B", was suffering "psychological and emotional harm" through exposure to extremism of a kind similar to that seen in sex abuse cases.

The judge said B was one of a number of cases within the London borough of Tower Hamlets where "intelligent young girls - highly motivated academically" had been "captured and seduced by the belief that travelling to Syria to become what are known as jihadi brides is a somewhat romantic and honourable path for them and their families".

He said that, after B was removed from a flight to Turkey in December 2014 and made a ward of court, her parents had appeared to co-operate with police and social workers to stop her and her siblings accessing online terrorist propaganda.

But in June this year counter-terrorism officers carried out a protracted search of the family home and discovered "a plethora of electronic devices", including those belonging to the father, containing Islamic State material which showed the parents had carried out "a consummately successful deception" of the authorities.

The judge said of B: "I can see no way in which her psychological, emotional and intellectual integrity can be protected by her remaining in this household.

"The farrago of sophisticated dishonesty of the parents makes this entirely unsustainable."

Drawing an analogy with sex abuse cases, the judge added: "The violation contemplated here is not of the body but it is of the mind.

"It is every bit as insidious - and I do not say that lightly - as it involves harm of a similar magnitude."

The judge ruled that only a "safe and neutral environment" free from the "powerful and pernicious influences" of jihadi propaganda could now protect the teenager's well being.

The judge referred to the case as "a tragedy for a promising young woman".

He said B, who had been taught at home, had expressed wishes to study medicine at university and become a doctor and there was no reason to believe she would not fulfil that ambition following outstanding GCSE results.

He said: "She has amassed an array of A and A*s - two of which arrived yesterday during this hearing. It should have been for her and her family a happy day. It was not."

Now the teenager was on bail and under police investigation after she and her parents and other siblings had been arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000 on suspicion of possessing information likely to be useful to those who wanted to commit terrorist acts.

Today the judge approved the family passports, which had been held by solicitors, being transferred to the Metropolitan Police.

The judge said B had sent him a carefully written letter which was exceptional because of its "flawless" spelling, grammar and punctuation.

She displayed strong loyalty to her parents and her siblings and conveyed the succinct message that she wanted to remain at home, even if that meant being tagged.

The judge said throughout the court hearing the family's self discipline had been striking as B and her parents sat "betraying no emotion" and remained "impassive and inscrutable" while he decided whether their family should be "fragmented".

Referring to all the recent jihadi bride cases he has dealt with from east London, the judge said: "In each case these young women have boundless opportunities, comfortable homes and carers who undoubtedly love them.

"But they have been captured and seduced by the belief that travelling to Syria to become what are known as jihadi brides is a somewhat romantic and honourable path for them and their families.

"There is no doubt in my mind that young women have been specifically targeted for that purpose.

"The reality is the future for such women in Syria, as we know, holds only exploitation, degradation and death.

"In other words, these children with whose future I have been concerned have been at risk of really serious harm, and as such the state is properly obligated to protect them."

The judge read out a "startling list" of downloaded terrorist-linked material found by counter-terrorism police at B's home and said there was evidence that there had been file sharing between family members.

On a number of devices belonging to B herself officers found material downloaded while she was a ward of court - including 44 Ways To Support Jihad containing suggestions on how to support terrorist activity.

Other material contained information and advice on how to avoid airport security - with particular advice for females intending to travel to Islamic State territory via Turkey.

The teenager had also searched for the response times of the Met Police armed response team, and for software to hide the IP addresses of computer users online.

The judge said it was also alleged B had a download version of the How To Survive In The West - A Mujahid Guide, the possession of which was itself a serious criminal offence.

It gave guidance, among other things, on weapon and bomb making and how extremists could hide their identity.

Another download was of Miracles In Syria which showed the "smiling corpses" of Islamic State "martyrs" said to have gone to receive their reward in heaven.

The judge said devices belonging to one of B's siblings showed IS News reports of men being prepared for death and asserting it had the support of the community. Another edition showed human "executions". The sibling also possessed a video of terrorist training and actual beheadings.

Another sibling also possessed videos encouraging support for attacks on western forces in the Middle East and a document consisting of a lecture on the need to participate in the fight against non-Muslims.

The judge said devices said to belong to the parents showed lectures encouraging participation in armed attacks on non-Muslims and showing deaths as seen on the devices of one of their children, which suggested file sharing.

He said the videos of the beheadings and the corpses alone were sufficient to adversely affect "young, vulnerable individuals".

The judge said all this material had been discovered after the parents had said they were "grateful" that B had been stopped from getting to Turkey.

They also said they would do all they could to keep their children from seeing terrorist-related material, including installing software on their devices to stop them receiving it.

But the assurances they had given to the authorities contrasted with the "elaborate and sophisticated network of lies" they had told to conceal what was really occurring in the family.

Press Association

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