Residents’ shock over police swoop on school

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Residents on a Lancaster estate told of their shock as up to 40 police swooped on a private school in Lancaster following allegations of false imprisonment and sexual assault.

Police are still investigating an incident which allegedly took place at the Jamea Al Kauthar Islamic School for Girls in Ashton Road, Lancaster last Tuesday, March 5.

The incident took place within the 40 acre school grounds and involved a “small group of teenage girls”.

Three men were initially arrested inside the school grounds on suspicion of false imprisonment and sexual assault, but one of them, a 53-year-old man from Blackburn, was later released without charge. Police received a call on Saturday evening, and executed a search warrant on Sunday, in which up to 40 police officers were involved.

A police spokesman said that, at this stage, the investigation was focusing on the one incident. The boarding school, which has around 400 girls aged between 11 and 20 on its role, said that it was fully cooperating with the investigation.

One Ashton Road resident, who did not wish to be named said: “There was a lot of police activity, and we had around eight to ten police officers on our estate around the perimeter.

“When I went out to find out what was going on, all the police would say was there had been an incident.

“Later on in the evening, the police were blocking the entrance. Up in front of the main doors there were two big police vans and there were also police at the end of Haverbreaks.”

Supt Andy Webster, who is leading the investigation, said: “We launched an inquiry after receiving a call highlighting potential concerns for the welfare of a small group of teenage girls at the Islamic girls’ school in Lancaster.

“The investigation is currently focusing on one incident which allegedly took place last Tuesday. This was reported to us on Saturday and relates to a small number of girls. We are trying to ascertain whether they are existing or former pupils of the school.

“Our aim at this stage is to respond to the information given to us in a proportionate and sensitive way. We will seek to minimise the impact and the disruption to the school and our local communities whilst we investigate the allegation.”

The school said in a statement on its website: “The school is aware of the allegations that have been made and at the present moment the school is fully co-operating with the police with their investigations into the matter. We expect the matter to be cleared up soon.”

It has also postponed a conference that was due to be held this Saturday, March 16, until further notice.

The school was founded in 1996 and occupies the former Royal Albert Hospital site, providing both an Islamic and an academic education.

In a 2010 report, Ofsted said that the school provided an outstanding quality of education and fulfils its aims exceptionally well. Procedures for safeguarding students and to ensure their welfare, health and safety were also described as outstanding.

A 40-year-old man from Bolton and a 30-year-old man from Blackburn, who were arrested on suspicion of sexual assault and false imprisonment, have been released on police bail.