Commission opens inquiries into charities after terror conviction

05 Mar 2018 News

The Charity Commission has opened statutory inquiries into the Lantern of Knowledge Education Trust and the Essex Islamic Academy following an employee's recent conviction on terrorism charges.

The Commission announced last Friday that it had opened two inquiries, looking into the Lantern of Knowledge Education Trust and the Essex Islamic Academy. The Commission has opened the inquiries following the conviction of a former part-time teacher Umar Haque on terrorism charges.

The Lantern of Knowledge Education Trust runs a secondary school where Haque was employed "as a part-time teacher and supervisor" from April 2015 until January 2016. The Essex Islamic Academy, also known as the Ripple Road Mosque, is a secondary school at which Haque also worked.

The regulator’s inquiry will examine The Lantern of Knowledge Education Trust's “general administration, governance and management by trustees, including the management and supervision of staff at the school with access to children or young people”. In regards to its inquiry into the Essex Islamic Academy, the Commission will "consider how Haquer was able to attempt to radicalise children, and what the trustees and others at the charity knew about this". 

The inquiry will also examine the Trust's “ policies and procedures, including those relating to safeguarding” according to the Commission.

The Commission cites a report received by Ofsted, the regulator for service care providers for children and young people, which concluded that Lantern of Knowledge “governors have not held school leaders to account for the decline in standards” at the school, and “have too readily accepted information from school leaders without insisting that it is rigorously analysed”.

The Commission said the inquiry was opened following engagement with the school’s trustees “and a compliance visit to the school’s premises in November 2017”.

The inquiry has been opened after one of the school’s part time teachers was recently convicted of trying to recruit children he was teaching into an “army of jihadists” to help carry out terrorist attacks in London.

Michelle Russell, director of investigations, monitoring and enforcement at the Charity Commission, said: "This is one of the worst cases we have seen with children, as young as 11, being exposed to harm through attempted radicalisation and terrorist material by this man. The welfare of these children is of utmost importance to all agencies involved. Haque’s abhorrent actions don’t just affect these children, but their families and the community as a whole. It is important that those affected have the appropriate support made available to them, and the Commission will continue to do all it can to support the statutory agencies to ensure that this is the case.

"The vast majority of mosques and supplementary schools including madrassahs do good work and are an important resource in local communities. What happened clearly damages the trust and confidence the children’s parents had in the charity he was employed at, as well as wider public confidence. We and the public expect charities, particularly those working with children and young people, to be safe places, free from abuse or harm. This was not the case here, where Haque grossly abused the trust placed in him because of his position and teaching role."

Part-time teacher found guilty of ‘trying to recruit children into army of jihadists’

The Commission’s announcement follows the conviction of Umar Haque, a part-time teacher at the trust’s school. 

Haque was found guilty last week of showing students at the Essex Islamic Academy “beheading videos and other violent militant propaganda, forced them to re-enact deadly attacks on the British capital and made them role-play attacking police officers”.

Dean Haydon, head of the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command, said: “When specially trained officers interviewed the children, they described being shown by Haque horrific videos of extreme terrorist violence including executions.

"They told police how Haque made them roleplay terrorists and police officers, with the children acting as terrorists being made to stab the 'police officers' to death.

"The children were paralysed by fear of Haque, who they understood to have connections to terrorists and who essentially told them that a violent fate would befall them if they told anyone what he was doing. They were too afraid to confide in anyone.

"It's crucial that the police, partners and communities do all they can to identify where young and vulnerable people are being radicalised and I urge anyone with concerns that this is happening to report it confidentially to police."

According to a report by Reuters, Haque had no teaching qualifications and was being employed as an administrator at the school. The Metropolitan Police said that Haque was attempting to radicalise 55 children. "All 55 children have received safeguarding support and 35 have been assessed to require longer-term support, which is being provided to them," said the Met. 

Haque was one of three men arrested for planning a terrorist attack, although he was the only one employed by the trust.

Statement by the trust

In a statement the Lantern of Knowledge Education Trust said: “The trustees, governors and staff of Lantern of Knowledge School were shocked when Umar Haque was arrested, and struck with horror to subsequently learn of his activities. Our trust and school takes extremism very seriously. We work tirelessly to develop our pupils into rounded, upstanding and inclusive British-citizens who make positive contributions to society – indeed, our endeavours and educational standards over many years speak for themselves.

“Umar Haque was employed as a part-time teacher and supervisor from April 2015, in a relatively minor role. He taught a class of 18 pupils. He left the school voluntarily for personal reasons in January 2016. He did not return to the school after this point.

“We have co-operated fully with all authorities investigating Haque sharing information with Police, Local Authority Social Services, Department for Education, Ofsted and the Charity Commission - and we will continue to do so. Access was given to the police to enable interviews of pupils to take place and for statements to be taken.

“We denounce any form of radicalisation and would have been swift to notify the police and prevent team if any had come to the school’s attention during or after Haque’s employment.”

Essex Islamic Academy has been contacted for a comment. 

Lantern of Knowledge Educational Trust

The Lantern of Knowledge is a registered charity which lists its activities as “homeless feeding programme”, offering university scholarships to under privilege students, “interfaith and community cohesion” as well as running a secondary school.

According to its most recent set of accounts for the year ending 30 September 2016, the organisation had an income of £523,328 and spending of £411,695.

The Essex Islamic Academy is a registered charity which had a total income of £150,920 and spending of over £45,000 according to its most recent set of accounts published on the charity register for the year ending 5 April 2017. 

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