'Terrorist house' schoolboy quizzed

Muslim boy, 10, probed for ‘terrorist house’ spelling error

A 10-year-old Muslim boy's homework
Image caption A 10-year-old Muslim boy made the mistake during an English lesson and was investigated by police

A 10-year-old Muslim boy who mistakenly wrote that he lived in a “terrorist house” during an English lesson at school has been investigated by police.

The pupil, who attends a primary school in Lancashire, meant to say he lived in a “terraced house”.

The boy was interviewed by police at his home the next day and the family laptop was examined.

Teachers have been legally obliged to report any suspected extremist behaviour to police since July.

The boy’s family said they were left shocked by the 7 December incident and want both the school and police to apologise.

In order to protect the boy’s identity, the BBC is not naming his cousin, who said she initially thought it was all a “joke”.

“You can imagine it happening to a 30-year-old man, but not to a young child,” she said. “If the teacher had any concerns it should have been about his spelling.

“They shouldn’t be putting a child through this.

“He’s now scared of writing, using his imagination.”

What is the 2015 Counter-Terrorism and Security Act and Prevent strategy?

  • Local authorities and public services have a duty to provide support for people vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism. In England and Wales this duty is the Channel programme.
  • The act gives the power for passports and documents to be seized from persons suspected of involvement in terrorism.
  • It requires internet providers to retain internet protocol address data to identify individual users.
  • Temporary exclusion orders can be imposed by the Home Secretary if a number of conditions are met.
  • The act provides greater powers to disrupt people heading abroad to fight – including cancelling passports at the border for up to 30 days.
  • The government’s counter-radicalisation programme, Prevent, means UK universities have a duty to stop extremism.
  • Prevent provides practical help to dissuade people from being drawn into terrorism and ensure they are given support and advice.

The 2015 Counter Terrorism and Security Act places a statutory duty on schools and colleges to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.

Critics argue teachers are over-reacting for fear of breaking the law, rather than using their common sense.

Miqdaad Versi, assistant secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, the UK’s largest umbrella group for Islamic associations, said he was aware of dozens of cases similar to that of the Accrington schoolboy.

“There are huge concerns that individuals going about their daily life are being seen through the lens of security and are being seen as potential terrorists rather than students,” he said.

“This is a natural consequence of the extension of the ‘Prevent Duty’ to schools.”

The Home Office does not publish data for the number of referrals made to Channel, the de-radicalisation programme.

However, in the year to the end of October, 1,355 people aged under 18 were referred to it, compared to 466 in the previous 12 months.

Lancashire Police said in a statement: “This was reported to the police but was dealt with by a joint visit by a PC from the division and social services, not by anyone from Prevent.

“There were not thought to be any areas for concern and no further action was required by any agency.”

The school said it was unable to comment because it is investigating a complaint made about the incident.

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