William Eichler 19 February 2019

Council denies ‘litany of failures’ in Shamima Begum case

The lawyer representing the family of Shamima Begum has accused the borough of Tower Hamlets of a ‘litany of failures’ leading up to the teenager's decision to join ISIS.

Tasnime Akunjee said it was ‘almost inconceivable’ that no agency had been investigated in the wake of Begum’s decision to join the Islamist group in 2015 with two other schoolgirls from Bethnal Green Academy.

Mr Akunjee said that Tower Hamlets Council were guilty of ‘either severe negligence or a cover-up’ because no serious case review had been carried out by the council when the girls left the UK.

'It is almost inconceivable that to date no agency has been investigated let alone held to account for the litany of failures that resulted in the Bethnal Green schoolgirls managing to travel to ISIS,' he said.

'To my knowledge, neither the Begum family nor any of the other families affected have ever been contacted as part of a formal inquiry that led to these failures. We need an urgent inquiry into how Shamima Begum ended up in Syria along with her school friends.

'There are serious questions that Tower Hamlets Council along with its Mayor John Biggs, the Police and the former leadership of the Bethnal Green Academy must answer for.'

In response, a spokesperson for the borough said the accusations were ‘unfair and skewed’.

‘A multi-agency partnership gold group including the police and health services found that this case did not meet the threshold for a serious case review,’ they said.

‘Instead the council worked alongside the Government’s Prevent team and the police’s SO15 counter terrorism team to conduct a wider review and provide in-depth support to the school, its staff, parents and pupils in order to investigate what had happened and stop others following in their footsteps.’

‘This work, which continues to this day, has been commended by the Government,’ the spokesperson added.

Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs described Mr Akunjee’s accusations as ‘not a fair reflection of the situation.’

‘We have put in place robust measures to help prevent radicalisation in our schools, including intensive work with their school. These have been praised by Ofsted, the Government and the Home Office,’ he said.

‘In Tower Hamlets we pull together and tackle extremism in all its forms. Shamima Begum will have to account for her actions and we will see what happens next which is a matter for the Government.’

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