HOME secretary Priti Patel has indicated that Prevent – the UK government’s counter-extremism programme – will be overhauled to meet its objective of deradicalising vulnerable people.
The multi-agency programme aims at stopping individuals from becoming terrorists but there are concerns that it has not been successful in preventing Islamic extremists with an “overemphasis” on right-wing extremism.
Local-level panels generally comprising teachers, health workers, psychiatrists and representatives from religious groups in addition to police and security services assess people referred to Prevent.
If individuals are assessed as being a terrorism risk, they are referred to Home Office’s Channel programme.
However, many referrals to Prevent do not result in police action and in some cases, organisations involved in forensic mental health, housing or education step in to provide support.
Counterterrorism experts feel that the £40-million Prevent has not done much to target and deradicalise those at risk of committing a terrorist attack.
According to the findings of research reported by The Times, offenders known to Prevent were involved in seven out of the 13 terror attacks that resulted in 14 fatalities in the past five years.
“Islamic extremists made up more than two-thirds of the 229 terrorists in custody last year and are understood to account for more than 90 per cent of MI5’s terrorist watchlist. Despite this, Islamic extremists made up less than a quarter of Prevent referrals,” the newspaper said.
While the Home Office still awaits the outcome of an independent review of Prevent ordered more than three years ago, Patel said, “there are definitely things that we need to change”.
Data also showed that the Islamic referrals made to Prevent during the previous year were fewer than far-right extremists who made up a fourth of the total cases.
Lord Carlile of Berriew, who worked as the UK’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation for about 10 years, told the newspaper that there was an “overemphasis on right-wing extremism” because of an “overemphasis on not being anti-Muslim”.