CAGE’s report, ‘The ‘science’ of pre-crime’, dives deep into the foundations of the government’s counter-extremism strategy. For the first time, the public has been made aware that the government’s flagship PREVENT and Channel programmes are not founded upon reliable science.
Despite this, annual figures of referrals to the Channel programme have nearly doubled year on year since 2006. The latest numbers between 2015 and 2016 have shown, more than 20 people a day were referred, a total of about 7,500 people in the year. Figures showed 610 of them were under 10, and 3,100 were under 18. Most importantly, only 10% overall were assessed as requiring further ‘counter-terrorism’ support.
This is suggestive of mass over reporting and widespread data collection.
Expanding the Schedule 7 stop
Because of the vast intervention powers inherent in the policy, and the legal duty upon public sector workers to apply it, large swathes of information and personal data are being collected and stored by local authorities and made available to counter terrorism police.
How this data is used and who has access to it and for how long, are questions of vital importance. Moreover, the catchment net for data collection is wide. PREVENT referrals may be instigated by the most of mundane of actions, such as requesting a prayer room, or supporting the Palestinian people. There may be no suggestion of criminality with these referrals, however they often lead to interviews with social workers, PREVENT officers, and school safeguarding leads.
Seen in this light, PREVENT and Channel are an evolution of the Schedule 7 stop, where police intercept individuals at airports with no suspicion required (largely due to racial profiling), in order to gather intelligence through asking uncomfortable questions which range from trying to elicit an individual’s opinion on Palestine to their feelings about Syria and even which mosques they attend.
This is an alarming state of affairs. Both PREVENT and Schedule 7 stops collect data from individuals which can and is used in court proceedings. As a result of both processes, individuals may find themselves forever on the security ‘radar’ with no access to redress.
The case of Rahmaan Mohammadi, questioned once by PREVENT, being barred from the Labour Party conference as a security risk is illustrative of this.
PREVENT is an unjustifiable programme
This is by no means a coincidence. Rather it is indicative of an overwhelming expansion of the security state, which is being coerced into society using a fear-based narrative and dodgy ‘science’.
PREVENT and Schedule 7 act as a social ‘dragnet’ to gauge, monitor and manage the discussion within the Muslim community, while overlooking key grievances around foreign and domestic policy. Both processes are inherently discriminatory. Despite Muslims being only 5% of the population, they represent at least 54% of all PREVENT referrals, while approximately 80% of Schedule 7 stops target people from ethnic minorities. At the same time, the legislation behind them makes them easily transferable to individuals in broader civil society. This makes both programmes not only ineffective but dangerous.
Now, the Investigatory Powers Act, will build on this environment and provide the government and security services with further and vast interception powers. Once these measures are written into law, the security state can and will apply them on anyone that falls foul of their narrative. This is culminating in a burgeoning securitised ‘public space’ at the expense of a disappearing ‘private space’, a vital concern for civil liberty advocates.
This spectre of oppression is all the more reason to resist PREVENT and call for it to be scrapped. The solution to political violence is not legislated oppression – in fact, it is the opposite. It is accountability for the ongoing abuses of the War on Terror, an end to aggressive foreign policy, a return to the rule of law, and an open, just and fair society that is based on empathy and understanding rather than mistrust and fear. Such a status quo would be a relief for us all.
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)