Prevent chief expects review to focus on far right referrals
Chief Constable Simon Cole, head of Leicestershire Police and national lead for Prevent, has welcomed the up coming review of the strategy as “the time for hard fact, not twisted fiction.”
With an annual budget of around £40m, Prevent aims to stop people becoming terrorists or supporters of terrorism and places a statutory duty for schools, NHS organisations and those in the prison service to raise concerns about those thought to be at risk of radicalisation.
It has been criticised heavily by civil liberties and human rights organisations who claim the strategy fosters discrimination against people of Muslim faith.
Writing on his blog, Chief Constable Cole said: “It will be interesting to see what the review discovers. I believe it will quickly find out that often it is the perception of Prevent, rather than its realities, that cause some of the doubts.
“I have been encouraged to see both the West and the East Midlands host open sessions with anonymised Channel panels, meaning anyone can see the kind of challenges that are being faced on a daily basis across the UK.
“This is the type of transparency which helps to build trust, which I believe must also be one of the primary goals of this review.
“It will also surely reflect on the growth of far right referrals – which rose by 36% in the latest Home Office figures for 2017/18.
“My colleague, and the head of Counter Terrorism Policing, Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, recently warned that the hostile political atmosphere and increasingly extreme online rhetoric around Brexit and nationalism is fuelling an increase in hate crime and far-right sentiment in this country – with concerns that is being exploited by far-right extremists.
“Whatever the reasons, there is no doubt that we are seeing increasing number of Prevent referrals relating to young and vulnerable people showing signs of right wing extremism, and Prevent will continue to be a crucial tool in reversing this worrying trend.
“Most of all, though, I think the review will find is that some of this is incredibly difficult. Where should the line be drawn between freedom of speech and becoming an offender? How intrusive is it to talk to a family about concerns raised around a child?
“As I regularly say to our Prevent teams both locally and nationally, if it doesn’t feel difficult then you are probably in the wrong place.”
Referrals to Prevent regarding far-right ideologies increased by more than a third in 2017-18 (1,312) while referrals over Islamist extremism concerns fell by 14% (3,197).
The independent review was announced by security minister Ben Wallace in January after the government accepted an amendment to the counter-terrorism and border security bill passing through parliament.