Counter terror police running secret database
The Guardian has revealed that counter-terror police have been running a secret database containing details of thousands of individuals referred to the government’s Prevent programme.
The National Police Prevent Case Management database is centrally managed by national counter-terrorism policing headquarters and is accessible to all UK police forces, with the Home Office also able to request data from it.
The stated aim of Prevent, the controversial anti-radicalisation programme, is to divert people from terrorism before they offend and crucially deals with individuals who have yet to cross the criminality threshold.
Each referral is added to the database by individual police forces, including personal details and reasons for the referral, but the person is not notified. Police chiefs said recording referrals ensured accountability and allowed forces to understand when vulnerabilities are increasing.
Official statistics show that 21,042 individuals have been referred in the three years to March 2018 alone. The majority (57 per cent) were aged 20 years or under, and, within this figure, 2,009 were under 15 and 2,135 were aged 15 to 20. Only 394 were escalated to the Channel process, which provides specialist support to people who were deemed at risk of being drawn into terrorism following a number of assessments.
Gracie Bradley, Liberty policy and campaigns manager, said: “This secret database isn’t about keeping us safe. It’s about keeping tabs on and controlling people – particularly minority communities and political activists. It is utterly chilling that potentially thousands of people, including children, are on a secret government database because of what they’re perceived to think or believe.”
Harun Khan, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “That a database is being compiled by police forces detailing every Prevent referral is deeply worrying. That it is secret is even more concerning. This database – over and above being a hugely authoritarian tool – will mean that the vast majority of those referred, who are found to have no terrorism link, will still be perceived as potential risks by the state, and this will disproportionately affect Muslims. Our questions on transparency, accountability and oversight around Prevent now become even more important.”
The Guardian report was based upon responses to freedom of information requests submitted by Liberty.