The bullying of a schoolgirl who tragically killed herself was “so blatant” that it would have been “impossible” for teachers not to have noticed, a pre-inquest review has heard.
Mia Janin, 14, is believed to have taken her own life after being bullied on social media and at her school in north London. Mariano Janin, her father, believes Mia saw bullying messages the night before her death on 12 March 2021.
Speaking at a pre-inquest hearing at Barnet Coroner’s Court, Mr Janin said that pupils at his daughter’s school, the Jewish Free School (JFS) in Harrow, had a group chat on social media platform Snapchat where they shared “horrible” messages about Mia. This was something she was aware of, he said.
The bereaved father, who sadly lost his wife to cancer just four months after his daughter’s suicide, insisted that it was vital the court request access to the messages from Snapchat. Currently, social media apps are not required by the law to hand over their data - but Assistant Coroner Tony Murphy agreed that it was worthwhile to ask what information the app still retains.
Mr Janin said this was important both in terms of understanding Mia’s state of mind and the “culture” of the school. “We need to see what we can do to avoid this happening again,” he explained. “We need to stop this. Mia isn’t the first girl this happened to.”
Mia’s death has been compared to that of Molly Russell, also 14, who attended nearby Hatch End high school in Harrow. An inquest concluded that Molly had died “from the negative effects of online content”.
The coroner forced social media companies to reveal the images Molly had viewed prior to her death, the first time this has happened in the UK. Molly’s father Ian Russell has since been campaigning for better internet safety for children, and has been vocal about the government’s upcoming Online Safety Bill.
Bullying was ‘blatant’
The court also heard that a classmate of Mia’s, who must stay anonymous due to reporting restrictions, told the Metropolitan Police that the bullying she had been subjected to was “blatant”. This, she said, meant it would have been “impossible” for teachers and staff at JFS not to have noticed how she was being treated.
Some of the key moments leading up to Mia’s death were said to include a queue for Covid-19 testing, and a design and technology lesson - the last class she attended.
At a previous pre-inquest hearing, it was reported that Mia asked her parents if she could move school the night before she died. The Met Police’s investigation into the 14-year-old’s sad passing also found that she had sent a voice message to a friend ahead of returning to school post-Covid, in which she said she was “mentally preparing herself to get bullied".
‘We need to avoid this happening again’
Outlining the proceedings, Assistant Coroner Murphy said the inquest would seek to understand why Mia “took the steps’’ she did on 12 March 2021, which would include looking into her wellbeing inside and outside of school around the time of her death - and speaking to witnesses about the interactions she had with other students at JFS.
The court, he said, would also see what lessons could be learned from what happened to Mia - in the interests of “preventing future deaths”.
Speaking out previously, Mr Janin has said he wants parents to be able to access any messages, photos, or videos a child may have seen on social media before they died. “I just need to find out what happened to have closure,” he told the BBC. “We need to do what we can to avoid this happening again.”
It was recently the two year anniversary of Mia’s tragic death, which Assistant Coroner Murphy acknowledged during the hearing would have been an “extremely difficult” time for Mr Janin and Douglas Stuart, Mia’s brother.
Saying that he hopes the final inquest will happen in June, Assistant Coroner Murphy remarked: “Both of you have waited a very long time for this, and we will do everything we can to ensure you don’t have to wait any longer.”
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can contact Samaritans for free, 24/7, on 116 123.