The proportion of right wing-related referrals to the government’s controversial Prevent counter-extremism scheme has reached its highest ever level, according to new Home Office statistics.
There were 5,738 referrals in the year to March 2019, which was down on previous years and was explained largely by the drop in “Islamist” related concerns, which for the first time reached parity with right-wing referrals on around 24%.
The rise in right-wing referrals continued the growth seen in the last few years, up from 18% in 2017/18.
The largest proportion of referrals (38%) were those concerned with individuals exhibiting a mixed, unstable or unclear ideology – when people exhibit a combination of elements from multiple ideologies or even shift between different ideologies depending on what content they are exposed to.
“The figures clearly demonstrate that Prevent is about protecting vulnerable people from any and all toxic ideologies that seek to lure them towards terrorism,” said Counter Terrorism Policing’s National Prevent Coordinator, Chief Superintendent Nik Adams.
“The sheer volume of cases we see with mixed or unclear ideology demonstrates that complex behavioural needs and mental ill health can create a significant vulnerability to radicalisation.
“In 2018 we introduced a new assessment tool which has helped us deal with referrals more efficiently, directing individuals to the services that are most suitable to their needs.
“So if you are concerned that someone you know is potentially at risk of radicalisation, tell someone. Even if the referral is not suitable for Prevent, we can direct to the help and support you need.”
The statistics also show that the overall number of individuals discussed at a Channel panel (which assesses the needs of individuals deemed vulnerable to radicalisation) increased to 1,320, and those adopted as a Channel case (561) reached the highest level ever recorded.
Chief Superintendent Nik Adams added: “To see an increase in the number of Channel cases while overall referrals are declining is a good indicator that our improved assessment processes are working and that professionals, friends and families who make referrals better understand the risks of radicalisation and how Prevent can help.
“Early intervention is key. Experience has shown us that it is so much harder to pull somebody back once extremist views have become entrenched.”
The Prevent strategy has been described by Muslim community organisations, as well as mainstream human rights groups and others, as toxic, racist, Islamaphobic and creating a them-and-us culture within society.
Prevent Watch, which supports people impacted by the Prevent Duty, says children have been the target for Prevent referrals; the public sector has become part of the “security state;” the Muslim community has become a suspect community; and Prevent has had a chilling effect on open debate and free speech.
Meanwhile, Lord Carlile has been stood down by the government as independent reviewer of the Prevent programme following a legal challenge over his appointment.
In a letter to Rights Watch UK, which launched the legal action against the Home Office earlier this year, the government’s legal advisers said they had “full confidence” in his work but confirmed his role “has been concluded.”
Rights Watch UK objected to Lord Carlile because in the past he has declared his strong support for the programme.
Welcoming the decision, Yasmine Ahmed, the executive director of Rights Watch UK, said: “This is an outstanding victory for those who are committed to seeing a genuine and robust review of the Prevent strategy. Our concerns with Lord Carlile have always been clear and well-evidenced. His long-standing objection to any kind of criticism or overhaul of Prevent is no secret … This meant the review lacked buy-in and cooperation from those it most needed to engage.
“It is important that the home secretary now takes the time to ensure mistakes which led to Lord Carlile’s appointment are not repeated. We reiterate our call for a public appointments process to be undertaken, in line with the cabinet manual guidelines. That process must be open and transparent. It is critical that the next reviewer is genuinely independent and has the faith of those impacted by it. There are established processes to help achieve that outcome, and they should be adhered to.
“His appointment was a serious misjudgment by the secretary of state and we welcome this move to rectify that mistake and to create a pathway for restoring faith and credibility in the independent review of Prevent, which can now properly grapple with what the review was intended to achieve.”
Harun Khan, the secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, added: “We welcome the news that Lord Carlile will no longer be leading the independent review into Prevent, and that the terms of reference will be reconsidered.
“We have long advocated a robust, wide-ranging and objective review of this strategy that has left Muslims feeling demonised, targeted and spied on. A truly independent review of how this strategy has impacted communities, under the stated terms of reference, would have been impossible under Carlile, a long-time supporter of Prevent.
“The government should now look further afield to find a reviewer truly independent enough to lead a review of Prevent that fosters trust among supporters and critics alike.”