Heads Fear Pupils May Go To Syria

The North West's former chief prosecutor claims headteachers do not want to inform police of concerns students may flee to Syria for fear the pupils are criminalised.

Two school leaders have confessed to being ``scared'' not all of their pupils will return after the Easter holidays amid fears they may travel to the war-torn region to join Islamic State, Nazir Afzal told The Times.

One principal said he has been approached by worried parents almost every day, Mr Afzal, who this week stepped down as chief prosecutor in the north west of England, said.

He said: ``Both (headteachers) said they were scared of the Easter break and would be very relieved if all their pupils came back after the holidays.''

Mr Afzal said the two London school leaders who spoke to him were unsure what to do about the issue, amid fears about how pupils would be treated if police were informed.

``They're (teachers) told to direct parents to the police, but the parents don't want the police to be told and the heads don't want to criminalise their pupils,'' he said.

Mr Afzal added: ``It can't just be a police responsibility because sadly many people in our communities don't trust the police.''

Three Bethnal Green Academy pupils, Shamima Begum, Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana, disappeared from their homes in east London in February and flew to Turkey, before crossing the border into wartorn Syria.

It is understood they were following another 15-year-old girl who travelled there in December.

Last month a High Court judge confiscated the passports of four other pupils at the school after concerns were raised by Tower Hamlets Council.

Yesterday David Cameron appeared to contradict earlier comments by senior officers at Scotland Yard by suggesting the schoolgirls could face criminal charges if they chose to return to the UK.

Mr Cameron said: ``Whoever has gone out to join a terrorist organisation is breaking the law and has to face the consequences of breaking the law.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe had previously told MPs: ``If they return home there are no terrorism issues here.''

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