Blackburn men released on bail after claim of girl pupil assault at Lancaster school (From Lancashire Telegraph)
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Blackburn men released on bail after claim of girl pupil assault at Lancaster school
AN Islamic school for girls which takes pupils from across East Lancashire is at the centre of a police sex probe.
Officers received an anonymous call about an alleged incident involving ‘a small number of teenage girls’ at the Jamea Al Kauthar boarding school in Lancaster.
A team of female detectives were granted a search warrant at Lancaster Magistrates Court before raiding the privately-run school, which has 450 pupils, on Sunday.
More than 30 officers took part in the search of the school, which is set in 20 acres.
The search is expected to continue over the next few days.
Police said at this stage, the inquiry was trying to ascertain the number of possible victims.
Bosses at Jamea Al Kauthar said they were co-operating with police and hoped the matter would be ‘cleared up soon’.
Superintendent Andy Webster said: “We are still at the very early stages of what is a complex investigation.
“We have a team of specialist detectives working to establish the full circumstances around exactly what has happened, as well as offering support to those involved.
“Our aim at this stage is to respond to the concerns raised proportionately and with sensitivity, and in a way that we can minimise the impact on the school and the surrounding local community.
“We are working with partner organisations to ensure the necessary safeguarding measures are in place for all students at the school.
“We understand there will be concern from families, both in the UK and abroad," he said.
He said pupils at the school came from across the UK, especially Lancashire and the North West, along with a ‘significant number’ of international students. Pupils are aged between 11 and 20.
All searches have been conducted by specialist female officers.
During the raid a 53-year-old from Blackburn was arrested on suspicion of false imprisonment, and released without charge. A 30-year-old man from Blackburn and a 40-year-old man from Bolton arrested on suspicion of sexual assault and false imprisonment have been released on police bail pending further inquiries.
Police said they are treating the allegations as an ‘isolated’ incident.
Residents living in the small private estate next to the school said they were ‘shocked’ and ‘horrified’ at the allegations.
One resident said: “Girls at the school generally keep themselves to themselves.
“The school is very private and to see the girls is rare.
“I am really shocked and horrified to hear of the allegations. The school usually seems so peaceful.”
Pupils at the school, which opened in 1996, were yesterday in classes as usual.
Another resident Neil Firth, 50, said: “I didn’t know anything at all until the police turned up on our estate.
“They were spread along the perimeter of the school like they were trying to contain something or someone in the grounds.
“The school is very private. You cannot enter its grounds unless you are invited in.”
Another resident added: “I recently visited the school on an open day to have a look around and it is doesn’t look much different to when it was a mental hospital all those years ago.
“During my visit I saw the pupils act out plays and it seemed to be a friendly place.”
The school is based in a four storey, Victorian grade II listed building. As well as the main school building which accommodates the borders there are two other buildings in the grounds, including a two buildings comprise the Madrassah and School.
Behind a gated entrance cars can drive along the entire perimeter of the building.
Currently 450 students are being accommodated over two floors of the main building, while fundraising is ongoing to refurbish the third floor which can accommodate another 120 pupils.
In a statement on its website, Jamea Al Kauthar said: "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.
“The school will publish a statement of any details it receives, once this has been received. We expect the matter to be cleared up soon."