Mayor intervenes as ‘stones thrown’ at Ian Mikardo High School over hiring of ex-offender

Ex-offender: Ian Devlin has been an assistant at Ian Mikardo High School since 2011

Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs is to vet local schools’ appointments of any ex-offenders convicted of serious crimes following an outcry over one school’s hiring of a man who was complicit in a killing when he was 16 years-old.

Ian Devlin served four years of a nine-year prison sentence after being convicted of taking part in an attack that killed Shiblu Rahman, a Bangladeshi man, in the East End in 2001.

He was not the killer but an accomplice and was jailed under joint enterprise law.

He has been directly employed by Ian Mikardo High School since 2011.

The school, in Bromley-by-Bow, is located just yards from the spot where the killing happened, prompting criticism that having Devlin working so close to the scene of his crime insults community sensitivities.

Protests have been taking place periodically since the story first came to light several weeks ago, culminating in the school being vandalised.

The East End Citizen understands stones were at one point hurled at the building, which is attended by boys aged 11 to 16 with serious social, emotional and behavioural issues.

Mayor Biggs has appealed for calm following the incident.

Focus of protests: Ian Mikardo High School

A petition was last month submitted to the Town Hall by residents calling for tighter controls around appointments and demanding that headteacher Claire Lillis resign.

Mayor Biggs has now rewritten the council’s rulebook, effectively handing himself the executive power to block any appointments of ex-offenders that he deems to be inappropriate.

The change has no force in law, and it is not known what if any sanctions would be available to punish any school that went against his wishes.

The council insists all schools under its jurisdiction are happy with the new protocol.

A council spokesperson said: “From this summer, any school wishing to appoint an individual with a serious conviction must seek the views of the council’s Director for Children’s Services who will, after consultation with the Mayor and Lead Member, express the council’s view on the appointment.”

Kahar Chowdhury, a former Labour council candidate, told the East End Citizen: “The fact that the Mayor has now said steps will be taken to prevent this from happening in the future shows that the appointment was wrong.

“There should have been a wider consultation. The headteacher has a duty of care to the community, and it seems that no thoughts were spared for his [Mr Rahman’s] family.

“The re-entry of Ian Devlin back into a community of vulnerable children seems very risky, and it sends the wrong message.

“There are questions of double-standards here too: would this have been allowed to happen if it was an anti-semitic attack?”

Charitable organisation Unlock, which provides information, advice and advocacy for people with convictions, issued a statement on the proposed changes which stressed that the council should avoid any “knee-jerk reaction”.

Ian Mikardo High School carried out a full risk assessment before making the appointment in 2011, including liaising with the relevant HR leads in the local authority.

The charity also stated: “It’s important that schools have strong, clear and effective recruitment policies and practices to properly consider the relevance of an applicant’s criminal record. Ian Mikardo have followed these and the person employed has been an excellent employee.

“We should trust and support schools to make their own recruitment decisions, not impose ineffective bureaucracy.”

The changes will not apply, other than voluntarily, to academies or free schools.

Headteacher Ms Lillis has said Devlin appealed against his sentence in 2003 and the Court of Appeal ruled that there was “considerable doubt” as to whether his actions at the time of his crime were racially motivated and reduced his sentence. She added that “employing Ian was not a decision that was taken lightly”.