Times reporter defends story on girl 'forced' into Muslim foster care - 'I think we did our job as a newspaper

Times chief investigative reporter Andrew Norfolk has defended his report on a Christian girl “forced” into foster care with Muslim families in Tower Hamlets after the council’s mayor said some of it was “not based in fact”.

The story, published on Monday, reported on a five-year-old white British girl who was taken into protective care and placed with two Muslim couples in the London borough.

The Times said the placements were made against the wishes of the family and that both Muslim women covered their faces in public for religious reasons.

It quoted a council source as saying the families did not speak English and that the girl was forced to learn Arabic, had her cross necklace confiscated and was told she could not eat bacon.

But, speaking on the BBC’s Today programme on Saturday, mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs said: “When the story came out we didn’t really recognise what was reported in the media.

“We checked it, we double-checked it, we have challenges in the way the council works which we are working on – which is why I became the mayor – but we felt it was somewhat sensationalist and it didn’t properly represent the facts.”

He said: “The more sensationalist stories about confiscating bacon or about removing crucifixes were, from all of our investigations, not based in fact.”

Biggs said the girl’s grandmother, into whose care she has since been taken, was a non-practising Muslim and that the second foster parents were a mixed race couple who spoke English in the home.

But, he also admitted he did not know “the precise facts”, particularly regarding the language used in the foster homes and the wearing of face veils, adding that the council was “still delving into it”.

A family court judge who removed the girl from foster care after the Times story praised the paper in court for raising “very concerning” matters of “legitimate public interest”.

Reporter Norfolk, who won the Paul Foot Award in 2013 for his two-year investigation into targeting, grooming and sexual exploitation of teenage girls by gangs of men, told the BBC his story had been based on concerns identified by a social services employee of Tower Hamlets.

He said the source “had observed this five-year-old child being very upset and distressed when she was being returned to that foster home”.

“We reported in our story what a local authority employee reported and what we discovered as a result of further investigations,” he added.

“These are difficult and sensitive issues. My job as a reporter when matters that on the face of it raise serious concerns are brought to our attention, my job is to investigate them.

“And when you discover issues that we believe it is in the public interest to explore and expose, which is exactly by the way what an experienced family court judge said about what we had done on Tuesday – she said we raised concerns that were ‘demonstrably in the public interest’.

“I think we did our job as a newspaper.”

The family court judge expressed “concern” that the Times published photographs of the child and foster carers – although these were pixelated to protect the identity of the girl.

The story was also picked up by the Daily Mail and Metro who drew criticism for photoshopping a face veil on to the stock image of a Muslim family. In a caption, the Mail said the image was “posed by models”.

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2 thoughts on “Times reporter defends story on girl 'forced' into Muslim foster care - 'I think we did our job as a newspaper”

  1. “My email inbox went nuts with overwhelmingly positive messages. Police, social workers, children’s charities, health professionals were getting in touch and saying, ‘Thank God you’ve said it; now maybe we can actually start dealing with this’. The relief they were expressing was extraordinary.”

    She neglected to add “I then tried to backtrack and claim that The Sun had misinterpreted my words”

    Such a great pity it’s taken her 4/5 years to begin telling the truth.

  2. OPEN LETTER TO ANDREW NORFOLK

    Dear Andrew

    Your coverage on Tower Hamlets Council has been well-timed and necessary.

    However, if you are interested in uncovering wrongs done to the vulnerable and the most vulnerable by the cabals in Tower Hamlets Council then you will have to be prepared to do more, much more than the issue about that child.

    Obviously that child has now been in the focus and her cause will not fade away, not in the foreseeable future.

    What you have not appeared to be aware of is the depth of degeneration and denial
    that Tower Hamlets Council is.

    Lives are being ruined by Tower Hamlets Council, which has ruined more lives than
    could be imagined by reading the reports on that child.

    So, why aren’t those stories in the Press?

    Tower Hamlets Council has been doing illegal, wrong and prejudiced stuff for years and years and none of that has been featured in the Press.

    Please do not confuse that with the coverage around Lutfur Rahman

    HE HAS got coverage.

    Yet there is a feeling that had it not been for the buzz words ‘white, christian girl”
    mixed with “forced’ “Muslim foster carers”, there would not have been much interest even in that girl’s plight.

    Is the above wrong?

    Your views are now well known about the child sex gangs.

    They are correctly well-referenced too.

    But how much do you know about Tower Hamlets?

    Have you probed?

    Have you searched?

    Would you think it far fetched if you are told that what Tower Hamlets Council has been perpetrating would very easily exceed the wrongs of any other London Council?

    That it is a Council that FOSTERS Crime and Criminality?

    (Paragraph withheld)

    Wish you rigorous and courageous investigating

    Best wishes

    MUHAMMAD HAQUE
    Secretary OF THE TRUST
    RACE EQUALITY IN TOWER HAMLETS
    REGD CHARITY

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