Thomas Knyvett College: MPs call for review after arrests made for racially aggravated assault

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Police were called to reports of a group of people attacking two teenage girls outside Thomas Knyvett College in Ashford.

MPs have called for a government review after arrests were made for alleged racially aggrevated assaults in an incident at a college on Monday (February 6).

Surrey Police was called to the junction of Salcombe Road and Stanwell Road, outside Thomas Knyvett College in Ashford, at 2.30pm to reports of a group of people attacking two teenage girls.

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The victims were two 15-year-old girls, one of whom has since attended hospital and received medical treatment.

Those arrested on suspicion of attempted racially aggravated grievous bodily harm (GBH), include a 39-year-old woman, a teenager and two children. Two people have also been arrested on suspicion of child neglect and intentionally encouraging and assisting the commission of an indictable only offence.

MPs’ letter to the Government

Janet Daby, MP for Lewisham East and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Children in Police Custody, has written a letter signed by a cross-party group of MPs to Home Secretary Suella Braverman.

In it, MPs express their concern for the victims, both in terms of the attack and the sharing of a video which circulated widely online.

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They write that the alleged racially motivated nature of the attack could have an impact on the black community, and call for an investigation into the alleged motive - and whether the authorities and the school new about any previous abuse.

A protest was reportedly held at the school Wednesday.

Surrey Police’s previous characterisation of the incident as a “fight between a group of girls” is criticised by the MPs and concerns are raised about “the impact such language may have on the black community in Ashford and across the country”.

They call on the Home Secretary to outline what steps her department is taking, in liaison with the police, to prevent further circulation of video footage of the incident.

They also call on Ms Braverman to ensure the school’s response is evaluated, including the actions of any staff at the scene and any reports of racist abuse before the incident.

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They write: “We would therefore be grateful if you or the Education Secretary can share further information on the safeguarding practices in place for black, Asian and ethnic minority students at risk of racist abuse; the training school staff receive on handling racism in schools; the disciplinary action which may be taken against school staff where due process is not followed regarding the handling of this incident by the school; and the intervention your department, or another relevant department, provides to schools facing an incident of this nature.”

Ms Daby raised the incident in the House of Commons on Thursday. Leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt said she will raise Mr Daby’s concerns with the Education Secretary Gillian Keegan.

Police investigation

Surrey Police said on Wednesday that four people have been arrested on suspicion of attempted racially aggravated grievous bodily harm (GBH), including a 39-year-old woman, a 16-year-old girl, and two 11-year-old girls. The 39-year-old woman and a 43-year-old man were also arrested on suspicion of child neglect and intentionally encouraging and assisting the commission of an indictable only offence. The 16-year-old girl was also arrested on suspicion of malicious communications.

A 15-year-old girl is still wanted in connection with an attempted racially aggravated GBH and racially aggravated harassment. Police say she knows she is wanted in connection with the incident.

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Inspector Maxine Cilia, borough commander for Spelthorne, said: “The video footage of this incident is shocking, and we appreciate the concern it will have caused the wider community. Every school child should feel safe as they move through the local community, and we will not tolerate this level of violence. We are providing specialist support to the victim who has now returned home after being treated for the injuries she sustained in this distressing assault.

“Officers are working hard to gather as much evidence as possible to build a strong case.

“Parents, pupils, and the wider public will notice extra police patrols in the area around Thomas Knyvett College today. The officers are there to engage with and reassure the community, and we encourage you to approach them if you have any concerns or questions and they will help you in any way they can.”

Video footage

Police have encouraged not to share footage of the incident which is circulating on social media.

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“We know the public wants to share this to raise awareness of this attack, and we completely understand the concern this incident has caused,” said Surrey Police in a statement. “However, we are conscious of how upsetting the circulation of this video will be, both for the victim and for the wider community.

“It is also critical to a future court case that this video is not shared more widely. Once arrests have been made in a case, criminal proceedings become ‘active’, and there is a risk that sharing footage or images of this incident publicly could potentially prejudice any future court hearing or trial.”

Thomas Knyvett College

The Howard Partnership Trust, which runs Thomas Knyvett College said in a statement on Monday: “Uppermost in our thoughts has been the welfare and care of the victim, but The Howard Partnership Trust, of which Thomas Knyvett College is a part, is aware this incident has caused tension among the wider community. We are taking this situation extremely seriously and are working with all agencies involved. We need to ask for calm and patience while vital work is undertaken to establish the facts. To this end, in the interests of safety of all concerned, we have taken the decision to close the school early today.”

Submit evidence

The force said it has the video as evidence but encouraged anyone else with footage or images to submit it via an online portal. With further information, investigators can be contacted on 101 or online. The independent charity Crimestoppers can be contacted on 0800 555 111.