Publication of the week: Professor Susan Edwards

24 August 2015

Edwards, S., “Protecting schoolgirls from terrorism grooming”, International Journal of Family Law 2015, 3.236-248

Statistics published by the Metropolitan Police estimate that between 50 and 60 women, including several unaccompanied schoolgirls, have travelled from the UK to Syria via Turkey to join the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). This article explores the response of criminal and family law (especially the role of the family courts) and the police to the urgent need to protect  girls from this newly emerging harm of being targeted because of their gender for a specific purpose by ISIS.  It also explores the current perception and understanding of schoolgirls and young women who have travelled overseas to join ISIS and urges the media, and all agencies and authorities concerned, to rethink and re-examine their duties towards, and representation of, schoolgirls and young women caught in this web. Professor Edwards argues that powerful organised jihadist gangs are grooming girls and young women for involvement in terrorist activities, abducting them via the Internet and social media, and then holding them against their will.  The criminal law defence of duress should be expanded to recognise the psychological coercion used in such cases. There needs to be a closer working together of agencies both with each other and with the community and with families as part of a comprehensive strategy to address the problem.

The full article is available on University computers via Family Law Online.

Professor Susan Edwards is a researcher and campaigner and a barrister (Door Tenant, 1 Grays Inn Square, London). She is an expert witness and member of the Expert Witness Institute.  She is Acting Dean of Law at Buckingham, and editor of the Denning Law Journal.