Braverman: Prevent reforms will help train people to spot genuine radicalisation

Officials will be trained to spot “genuine radicalisation” as part of an overhaul to the anti-terror Prevent programme, according to the Home Secretary.

Suella Braverman said face-to-face training will be rolled out alongside the “first major revision” of the Prevent duty guidance since its introduction in 2015 which, subject to the approval of Parliament, will come into force on December 31 this year.

Ms Braverman also told MPs that Prevent – which aims to stop people turning to terrorism – “must not risk any perception of disparaging” mainstream conservative commentators as extremists.

We will pilot and roll out new face-to-face training alongside this new guidance so that organisations across the sector have the appropriate skills to spot genuine radicalisation

Suella Braverman

Her comments came as she updated the Commons about the overhaul of Prevent six months after ex-Charity Commission chairman William Shawcross made 34 recommendations to the scheme.

Mr Shawcross found Prevent was “out of kilter with the rest of the counter-terrorism system, and the UK terrorism threat picture” and “must return to its overarching objective: to stop individuals from becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism”.

Terrorism was wrongly treated as a mental illness and there was a “failure” by those working on Prevent to properly understand the nature of ideology in Islamist radicalisation which risks “several potentially serious consequences”, he said.

A litany of concerns was raised about how the deradicalisation programme was working after it emerged several terror attacks were carried out by extremists who had been referred to Prevent.

Some MPs and campaigners criticised the review, with human rights group Amnesty International UK claiming it was “riddled with biased thinking”.

The Home Office said 10 recommendations have been delivered in full and progress has been made on the remainder.

It added steps have been taken to ensure Prevent does not work with or fund those who legitimise or support extremists.

An updated list of glossary terms offers descriptions for “extreme right-wing terrorism”, “Islamist terrorism” and “left-wing, anarchist and single-issue terrorism”.

Speaking in the Commons, Ms Braverman said she accepted the review’s recommendation to reset thresholds to “ensure proportionality across all extremist ideologies”.

She said: “Ricu, the Research, Information and Communications Unit, which provides analytical and analysis products on behalf of the Home Office, was identified by Sir William as a concern. In the past, Ricu has failed to draw clear distinctions between mainstream conservative commentary and the extreme right.

“People, like (Tory MP) Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg and Douglas Murray, express mainstream, insightful and perfectly decent political views, people may disagree with them but in no way are they extremists. Prevent must not risk any perception of disparaging them as such again.

“From now on all Ricu products which report on extremist trends and future themes will clearly state the purpose of such reporting and be proportionate.”

Ms Braverman said new Prevent duty training will “highlight the importance of ideology and enhance understanding of the drivers of Islamist and extreme right-wing terrorism”.

She added: “We will pilot and roll out new face-to-face training alongside this new guidance so that organisations across the sector have the appropriate skills to spot genuine radicalisation.

“And a new security threat check ensures that strategic decision-making related to Prevent is informed by the current threat landscape, local threats and that activity is directed accordingly.”

We literally have prisoners who are leaving prison more radicalised than when they went in

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper

Ms Braverman said the review recommended “great care” over terminology, noting: “The term ‘susceptibility to radicalisation’ should be used where appropriate and ‘vulnerability’ only where necessary.

“Many people who embrace extremism are affected by a range of complicating factors in their lives, but there is almost always an element of personal decision-making in the choices they make.

“They must not be absolved of responsibility when they choose this path.”

Ms Braverman said the top 20 areas in England and Wales with the highest risk ratings will receive multi-year funding, with “Home Office expertise” provided to Scotland.

Labour called on the Government to do more to prevent prisoners being radicalised.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper told the Commons: “The independent review of Prevent highlighted what countless other reports have also warned about – the lack of sufficient action on deradicalisation and Prevent in our prisons. We literally have prisoners who are leaving prison more radicalised than when they went in.

“The independent review said on extremism-related training for staff it became clear during the review that this training was further cancelled due to staff and resource shortages.

“I was further told that there had been delays to staff beginning Prevent training and to extremist prisoners beginning rehabilitative programmes.

“These delays are attributed to staffing and resourcing questions. So the Government has been warned repeatedly about this and I am concerned about there being a complete lack of reference to this in her statement.”

Ms Braverman said the Government had acted on calls to deal with radicalisation in prisons, introducing new training for prison officers.

“They will have more skills, more tools at their disposal to better identify terrorism and the risk that it poses within the prison estate,” she said.

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