Young “naive” fighters who return to Britain after leaving ISIS should be given a chance to reintegrate into society rather than face jail, says the head of the UK’s anti-terror watchdog.
Speaking to BBC radio, Max Hill QC, the independent reviewer of anti-terror legislation, warned against “losing a generation” of young men, and some women, by putting them through the courts after having being lured to go to Syria and Iraq by ISIS propaganda.
He said: “The authorities have looked at them and looked at them hard and have decided that they do not justify prosecution, and really we should be looking towards reintegration and moving away from any notion that we are going to lose a generation due to this travel.”
Around half of the estimated 850 Britons believed to have gone to join ISIS are now believed to be back in the UK and all have booked to explain themselves in court.
Mr Hill added: “But they have left space, and I think they are right to do so, for those who travelled out of a sense of naivety, possibly with some brainwashing along the way, possibly in their mid-teens and who return in a state of utter disillusionment and we have to leave space for those individuals to be diverted away from the criminal courts.”
The stance faced immediate criticisms from right-wing commentators like Professor Anthony Glees and neoconservative think-tank the Henry Jackson Society given that supporting a terrorist organisation like ISIS is a criminal offence in the UK.
The comments came a day after the EU Security Commissioner, Julian King, revealed that up to 8,000 foreign fighters may come back to Europe after the recent fall of Raqqa.