The Government has announced that Lord Alex Carlile QC has been appointed as the Independent Reviewer of the Prevent programme which safeguards vulnerable people from being drawn into terrorism. Prevent is one of the four strands of the Government’s CONTEST counter-terrorism strategy. Back in January, the Government announced the creation of the Independent Review of Prevent as part of the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act.
Security Minister Brandon Lewis commented: “Lord Carlile brings a wealth of experience and skills to this role. As the former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, he showed independence and rigour and I’m pleased he has agreed to lead this review. Prevent is vitally important in stopping vulnerable individuals being drawn into terrorism and has been instrumental in turning people’s lives around for the better and keeping our communities safe.”
Lewis added: “Our Prevent Network across the country – from mentors giving individual support to raising awareness of the dangers of radicalisation – works tirelessly to tackle all forms of terrorism. We’re continually improving and evolving the programme, and I look forward to seeing Lord Carlile’s recommendations on how we can learn more about what works and where we need to improve.”
Lord Carlile responded: “The nature of the terrorist threat is ever-changing and Government policy must evolve in order to tackle it. I look forward to seeing Prevent work in action and hearing views from supporters, critics and everyone in-between about what is and isn’t working. The review will be strongly evidence-based.”
In addition, Lord Carlile stated: “As the former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, I have a strong track record of asserting and sustaining my independence of Government in assessing the effectiveness of legislation. This role will be no different.”
Delivery of the programme
The review will focus on the current delivery of the Prevent programme and make recommendations for the future and. The expectation is for a report to be laid before Parliament by August 2020. The terms of reference for the review will be published shortly.
The purpose of Prevent is to safeguard vulnerable people from becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism, by engaging with those who are identified as being vulnerable to radicalisation or targeting by terrorist recruiters.
Prevent deals with all forms of terrorism, including Islamist and extreme right wing, and does not focus on any one community.
As part of Prevent, the Channel programme provides tailored support for a person vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism and works in a similar way to safeguarding processes designed to protect people from gang activity, drugs or sexual abuse with individuals offered dedicated support and advice. Since 2012, 1,267 people have been successfully supported through the scheme.
Of the 394 individuals who received Channel support in 2017-2018, 179 (45%) were referred for concerns related to Islamist extremism and 174 (44%) for concerns related to right wing extremism.
In 2018-2019, 203 community-based projects were also delivered by Prevent reaching over 142,000 participants. Of these projects, 47% were delivered in schools and aimed at increasing young people’s resilience to terrorist and extremist ideologies of all forms (including right wing extremism).
Alongside Pursue (stopping terrorist attacks happening in the UK and overseas), Protect (strengthening protection against a terrorist attack in the UK or overseas) and Prepare (mitigating the impact of a terrorist incident if it occurs), Prepare makes one of the four strands of the strategy.
Appointment “beggars belief” states Liberty
Campaign group Liberty has been swift to respond to the Government’s appointment of Lord Carlile to lead the independent review of Prevent. Martha Spurrier, Liberty’s director, said: “It beggars belief that the Government has appointed a Prevent reviewer who’s on public record saying that he’s biased towards it. This confirms our worst fears about the Government’s lack of commitment to a root and branch assessment of Prevent.”
Spurrier continued: “After a secretive appointment process, the Government has placed responsibility for the review in the hands of someone who gave Prevent the green light in the first place. This exercise should be an objective and thorough scrutiny of the very premise of the Prevent strategy which stifles speech, spreads fear and distrust and encourages discrimination. That will be impossible under this reviewer.”
In conclusion, Spurrier observed: “This appointment will be a cause of dismay for communities whose lives are most damaged by Prevent legislation.”