High Court rejects case against Prevent counter terror strategy

Der Salman Butt

A judge has rejected a case brought against the government’s controversial Prevent counter-terrorism strategy, which has been widely criticised by the Muslim community.

Salman Butt, the editor of the Islam 21C website, had claimed Prevent breached his right to free speech as it imposed a duty on universities to stop extremists by restricting speakers from addressing students.

Rejecting Butt’s case, Judge Duncan Ouseley ruled that universities could disregard the advice in certain cases and that the right to free speech was not restricted.

The case revolved around a government document which outlined new guidance for British universities and colleges to counter extremism on campuses. It cited Butt as a person who expressed views contrary to British values. Butt had also argued that collection and dissemination of his personal data by a government counter-terrorism unit was unlawful and amounted to surveillance.

Islam 21C said they would be appealing parts of the judgement but there were some key positive outcomes for the community. The website said:

  • The judge ruled that any reference to “non-violent extremism” and opposition to “British values” in the Prevent Duty Guidance only refers to such views that demonstrably risk drawing people towards terrorism, as legally defined. As for any other so-called “non-violent extremism” that does not create an actual risk for drawing people into terrorism, “the guidance does not apply to it.”
  • In addition to the above, the judge ruled that the Prevent Duty Guidance is only a recommendation and, as such, no one has to actually follow it. This includes the infamous definition of “non-violent extremism” used by the government in the past (“vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values…”)—people are under no obligation to use that as a working definition for “extremism.”

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