Schoolgirl's passport to be held by high court amid 'Islamic State' fears

Schoolgirl's passport to be held by high court amid 'Islamic State' fears

The passport of a schoolgirl thought to be at risk of travelling to an 'Islamic State' country must be held by a High Court official for her own safety, a judge has ruled.

The passports of the 16-year-old’s two sisters must also be held by the tipstaff - an officer of the court - and only returned for approved trips abroad.

High Court Family Division Judge Mr Justice Hayden made the ruling after hearing the girl was a pupil at a school - the Bethnal Green Academy in Bethnal Green, East London - where four pupils said to be "close friends" had already travelled to Syria.

The judge heard evidence that the girl may have been "intimately involved in certain steps taken" by the first pupil to travel.

The judge ordered that the identity of the "impressive and intelligent" girl must remain secret at least until she is 18 so that she can finish her childhood and complete her education in peace.

The judge, sitting in London, refused to grant her a life-long anonymity order, but said the issue could be reconsidered before her 18th birthday.

All three sisters and their parents appeared in court. The judge spoke privately to the 16-year-old before making his orders.

He described how earlier this year she became one of the first girls to be made a ward of court after evidence was submitted by local council social services and the police counter-terrorism unit "concerning vulnerable children who might have been subjected to radical influences".

The judge referred to the opposition of the two sisters to the "intrusion" into their lives at having to surrender their passports, but said: "Where that is a measure taken to secure the safety of their sister, it seems to me to be one relatively minor consequence.

"We are seeking to protect from a risk of very great magnitude, for we know that those who travel to ISIS to participate in jihad risk their own lives."

The judge said he had found the girl, who sat in court dressed in black, "to be a very impressive young woman: intelligent, committed to her family and to both her sisters."

Her father told him through an interpreter she was expecting her GCSE results this week, and among the A-level subjects she was due to study were English and history, as well as sociology and possibly Bengali.

The judge said he had studied English and history, adding: "Who knows, one day she might be sitting in this chair - I would like to think she could."

"This is a strong family unit which cares for each other and puts great priority on personal accomplishment and academic achievement."

The judge said the family should not regard the measures being taken as a punishment and the passports would be made available for travel if their travel plans were accepted by the counter-terrorism unit.

He said: "This strikes me as a very minor infringement into their family life in order to prevent the possibility of a very grave ill."


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