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Neil Basu concerned boycott will threaten Prevent review

Assistant commissioner Neil Basu has stressed that the country’s best chance of reducing terrorist violence risks being damaged as a result of the backlash William Shawcross’ appointment to lead a review of Prevent.

Speaking to the Guardian, the country’s top counter terrorism officer said the participation of critics in the official review was vital and that ‘only when all sides of the discussion are heard can this review achieve what it sets out to achieve’.

His comments follow the revelation that key human rights and Muslim groups, including Liberty, Amnesty International and the Runnymede Trust, will boycott of the official review of Prevent, which aims to stop Britons being radicalised into violent extremism.

It was hoped the review would quell persistent criticism that has dogged the government’s counter-radicalisation scheme and undermined Prevent’s legitimacy. Instead, it appears that he appointment of Shawcross will leave the review struggling for credibility, with critics saying Shawcross was the wrong choice because of alleged anti-Muslim comments in the past.

Basu said: “I have always believed and stated publicly that Prevent is the most important pillar of our counter-terrorism strategy, and counter-terrorism police have long been advocates of an independent review.

“We will, of course, work with the government’s chosen reviewer, because we believe the process will give our Prevent practitioners the opportunity to share their many years of expertise and insight, with the hope of bringing lasting improvement to this vital strategy. But we also recognise how important the support and trust of our communities will be if we are to continue to protect vulnerable people, and so it is with great disappointment that I read some key groups plan to boycott the review altogether.

“I would urge them to reconsider, because only when all sides of the discussion are heard can this review achieve what it sets out to achieve. But it is my hope that even if they do not intend to participate in the review, they will consider working with counter-terrorism policing to try and find some common ground and ultimately help us improve our protection of those who need it.”

The government has struggled for over a year to appoint a chair of the Prevent review. The government first chose Lord Carlile to chair the review in August 2019, before he was dropped following criticism that he could not earn the confidence of communities seen as vital to Prevent’s legitimacy and success.

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