Three-fold rise in Scottish children referred to Prevent
Police Scotland data has revealed that 28 children under the age of 15 were referred to the Prevent de-radicalisation scheme in Scotland last year.
A rise from eight children in 2016-17, Police Scotland have been quick to suggest that the threefold increase could be the result of a growing understanding and increased confidence in the Prevent scheme. Schools and other public bodies are currently required by law to report people who show signs of being drawn into violent extremism as part of the UK government's counter terror strategy.
The stats also show that 104 people were identified as at risk of being exploited by extremists last year, with international and right wing extremism noted as the main concerns. In total, 35 of those cases found that no further action was necessary, while in 66 of them, referrals were passed on to other agencies such as social work. Three cases were identified as requiring ongoing Prevent programme intervention.
Assistant Chief Constable Steve Johnson, Police Scotland's lead for specialist crime and intelligence, said: “Police Scotland has a robust process in place to assess referrals and ensures that all individuals referred, irrespective of age, are provided with the support and safeguarding appropriate to their circumstances. Police Scotland works closely with partners to increase the awareness of Prevent and to enhance the ability of professionals and the public to recognise vulnerabilities that can lead to radicalisation."
Paul Thomas, professor of youth and policy at the University of Huddersfield and the co-author of a study into the Prevent programme's impact in schools and colleges, said: "The increase is not a surprise but it might also reflect the fact that many teachers are not entirely sure of what are grounds for referral and what is not, so refer anyway to be on the safe side.
"The difficulty for the education sector is very often it is not clear cut as to whether there should be concern over activity, what exactly is a genuine safeguarding issue and what is simply a young person exploring what is going on in the world around them."