PREVENT is the most controversial branch of the government’s wider counter terrorism strategy, which aims to stop individuals being drawn to terrorism. Since 2015, the PREVENT duty has been imposed as a statutory duty on the public sector, which has led to further resistance to the policy now branded ‘toxic’.
The duty will apply to bodies such as local authorities including social services, the police, prison services, probation services, NHS bodies and the education sector from pre-school to university.
Application of PREVENT is based on looking for signs of extremism.
Extremism has not been defined legally but has been defined by the Home Office as “vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs [and] calls for the death of members of our armed forces, whether in this country or overseas.”
Radicalisation is the process by which people come to support terrorism and extremism and, in some cases, to then participate in terrorist activity.
The government bases its understanding of this process on a limited study which we exposed as being baseless in our report ‘The Science of Pre-Crime’. Public sector workers must use factors taken from that study to assess if a person is being radicalised, these include:
- Feelings of grievance and injustice
- Feeling under threat
- A need for identity, meaning and belonging
- A desire for status
- A desire for excitement and adventure
- A need to dominate and control others
- Susceptibility to indoctrination
- A desire for political or moral change
- Opportunistic involvement
- Family or friends involvement in extremism
- Being at a transitional time of life
- Being influenced or controlled by a group
- Relevant mental health issues
There are a number of problems with PREVENT. These are:
- It restricts free speech as any dissent aimed at the government could be deemed extremist.
- PREVENT’s focus on ‘extremist’ ideology has led to normative expressions of Muslim faith and practice to be seen as markers of extremism.
- It creates mistrust between frontline public sector workers (e.g. doctors and teachers) and the public who use these services.
- There is no evidence that ideology is the main driving force which leads to violence. It is based on a flawed study which we cover in our report “The ‘science’ of pre-crime: The secret ‘radicalisation’ study underpinning PREVENT”
- PREVENT is accused of dividing, stigmatising and alienating segments of the population, and could end up promoting extremism, rather than countering it.
CAGE has worked on hundreds of PREVENT cases across the country. PREVENT does not cover a specific area of law, rather it intersects with a number of areas of law. The information below is useful if you have been contacted by someone applying the PREVENT duty or have been subjected to PREVENT type questioning.
- Interaction with PREVENT is generally voluntary.
- If you are subjected to PREVENT type questioning by a PREVENT officer or approached for an ‘informal chat’ by a public sector worker in which questions concerning your cultural, political or religious beliefs are asked, only answer once you:
- Understand who you are speaking to
- Understand the reasons behind the questions
- Seek advice
- Contact CAGE for help
CAGE will help you to:
- Ascertain whether the PREVENT process is being applied
- Clarify why the PREVENT process is being applied
- Help you engage with the process but in a transparent manner
- Ask whether the public body has taken into consideration the public sector equality duty