Prevent & Channel: Are UK Schemes to Prevent Radicalisation Actually Working?
11:04 GMT 20.10.2021 (Updated: 11:12 GMT 20.10.2021)
It has emerged the man suspected of assassinating Conservative MP Sir David Amess received support from the British government’s Channel deradicalisation programme. Channel and its umbrella programme, Prevent, have been criticised in the past.
The man being held by police on suspicion of murdering Sir David Amess was reportedly first referred to Prevent, the government’s early intervention scheme, in 2014 when he was 18.
newspaper claimed Ali Harbi Ali “received extensive support” after being referred by Prevent to the more intensive Channel programme but his case was eventually closed.
Both programmes are entirely voluntary and the individual can back out at any point.
Every year thousands of people come on to the Prevent programme after being referred by police officers or occasionally by their teachers, lecturers or even their families.
Prevent explicitly aims to identify and monitor potentially ‘at-risk’ individuals and in the year to March 2020 there were 6,287 referrals to Prevent and 1,424 referrals to a Channel panel, 697 of which were taken on.
Launched in 2003 but only made public three years later, it is one of four strands within the UK government’s CONTEST counter-terrorism strategy – the others being Pursue, Protect and Prepare – and aims to prevent individuals becoming radicalised and supporting terrorism at home or abroad.
It was given extra resources after the 7 July 2005 suicide bomb attacks in central London.
In 2011 - when the main threat was still al-Qaeda - the incoming Con-Lib coalition government sought to reform the Prevent strategy
In a document published in June 2011 they wrote: "The Prevent programme we inherited from the last government was flawed. It confused the delivery of government policy to promote integration with government policy to prevent terrorism."
“It failed to confront the extremist ideology at the heart of the threat we face; and in trying to reach those at risk of radicalisation, funding sometimes even reached the very extremist organisations that Prevent should have been confronting,” it added.
After soldier Lee Rigby was murdered and almost decapitated outside Woolwich army barracks in London in 2013 by two British-born jihadists the then prime minister David Cameron said:
"When young men born and bred in this country are radicalised and turned into killers…we have to do more.”
In July 2015, legal requirements for social workers, teachers, health professionals and council staff, among others were introduced, obliging them to report anyone they suspected of harbouring extremist sympathies to authorities.
The barriers for ‘intervention’ were also drastically reduced, leading to a child in a nursery in Luton being referred to Prevent after he mispronounced the word cucumber as “cooker bomb” and drew a picture of a man with a knife, which turned out to be a depiction of his father cutting cucumbers.
A small proportion of those in Prevent are then sent on to Channel, where they get intensive support from a panel of experts in deradicalisation.
It is often wrongly believed that all those on Prevent and Channel are subject to radicalisation by Islamists.
But a small number are referred to by agencies in Northern Ireland because they are flirting with Republican or Loyalist terror groups and an increasing number are referred to because of association with neo-Nazi ideologies.
In 2017 Ahmed Hassan, an 18-year-old Iraqi, tried to set off a bomb on a Tube train in Parsons Green, south-west London.
Hassan had arrived in Britain two years earlier as a child asylum seeker.
He told immigration officials he had been groomed by Daesh and “trained to kill”, so he was referred to a Prevent team in Surrey, south of London.
After Hassan was jailed for life in 2018, parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee investigated his case and found it had been badly mismanaged.
They said Hassan’s case exposed “deep-rooted issues” in the way Prevent worked.
Another person who was referred to Prevent was Danyal Hussein
, who was convicted earlier this year of murdering two sisters in a London park after writing a contract with a demon.
In October 2017 Hussein, then 15, was referred to Prevent by his teachers after he accessed right-wing propaganda on school computers.
Hussein, who considered himself an Aryan, appeared in front of a Channel panel but was discharged from the programme in May 2018.
In June 2020, after dabbling with the occult, he carried out the horrific murder of Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman.
There appears to be a growing groundswell of opinion that Prevent and Channel are not working.
Last year the Prison Officers’ Association said the government’s strategy needed to be radically overhauled in the wake of two terror attacks by men who had come out of prison after serving time for terrorist offences.
It emerged Usman Khan
- who killed two people at Fishmongers’ Hall in central London - had taken part in two Home Office’s Healthy Identity Intervention Programme and Sudesh Amman
, who attacked people in Streatham, south London, had refused to engage with a similar programme.
Mark Fairhurst, the POA’s national chairman, told the BBC: “Are we dealing with people who are effectively sleeper cells who go through the motions, who make us think that they've conformed and rehabilitated themselves and de-radicalised?”
In January 2020 the government announced
it would be spending another £90 million on tightening the monitoring of convicted terrorists after their release from prison.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said £3 million would go on increasing the number of psychologists and specially trained imams, who would challenge the beliefs of radicalised offenders.
The government has commissioned a review of the Prevent and Channel programmes, led by William Shawcross, a former head of the Charity Commission.
The Guardian said they understood the review would be “fast-tracked” following the death of Sir David Amess.
*Daesh (aka ISIL) and al-Qaeda are terrorist groups banned in Russia