Ex Met superintendent: Authorities failed to protect Shamima Begum from grooming

Shamima Begum

An ex Metropolitan Police superintendent has accused the Met, Tower Hamlets Council and Bethnal Green Academy of failing in their duty of care towards Shamima Begum. 

Last week the Court of Appeal ruled that Begum should be allowed to return to the UK to fight the decision to remove her British citizenship.

Begum, now 20, was one of three schoolgirls who left London to join ISIS in Syria in 2015. Her citizenship was revoked by the Home Office on security grounds after she was found in a refugee camp in 2019.

But ex policeman Dal Babu, who used to advise the Begum family, said the authorities had failed to protect her from grooming.

He told Radio 4: “What we need to do is go back right to the beginning when this girl was a 15 year old child along with two of her friends and she was being groomed. Now Tower Hamlets Children’s Services knew about this, the Metropolitan Police knew about this and Bethnal Green Academy, the school, knew about this. They gave a letter to the girls to take home because they wanted to speak to their parents.

“Now I think that whole safeguarding episode was very poorly undertaken by all the authorities and what we should be having is a serious case review that looks at the shortcomings that there were… Remember these were 15 year old girls who went across and married men in their late 20s almost immediately. It was child abuse…

“She was groomed so we need to get to the bottom of why we failed to safeguard her at that stage. The bottom line is that if my daughter went shoplifting at Oxford Street I would get a knock on the door to tell me she’d been shoplifting. The police decided not to engage with the families other than by sending them a letter and I think that was an appalling failure in safeguarding.”

Dal Babu

In the past Tower Hamlets Council has said the case does not meet the threshold for a serious case review. Instead the council said it provided “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.”

The Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command has said its focus was to prevent tragedies and support the girls and their families, and its priority and focus from the moment the girls were reported missing was their safety and wellbeing.

And Bethnal Green Academy (now Mulberry Academy) has said it was only following instructions from the authorities.

On Thursday the Court of Appeal said Begum had been denied a fair hearing because she could not make her case from the Syrian camp.

The Home Office said the decision was “very disappointing” and it would “apply for permission to appeal.”

The ruling means the government must now find a way to allow the 20-year-old, who is currently in Camp Roj in northern Syria, to appear in court in London despite repeatedly saying it would not assist removing her from Syria.

Lord Justice Flaux said: “Fairness and justice must, on the facts of this case, outweigh the national security concerns, so that the leave to enter appeals should be allowed.”

The judge also said that the national security concerns about her “could be addressed and managed if she returns to the United Kingdom.”

Daniel Furner, Ms Begum’s solicitor, said: “Ms Begum has never had a fair opportunity to give her side of the story. She is not afraid of facing British justice, she welcomes it. But the stripping of her citizenship without a chance to clear her name is not justice, it is the opposite.”

Her father Ahmed Ali told the BBC he was “delighted” by the ruling, adding that he hoped his daughter would get “justice.”

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