About

About

About Prevent

About Prevent Watch

About Prevent

Prevent is a legal duty that was placed upon public sector workers in 2015 under Section 29 of the Counterterrorism and Security Act. The duty requires that all public sector workers from teachers to doctors have ‘due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.’  

Prior to existing as a legal duty, Prevent was a policy that was introduced in 2003 by the then Labour Government. The Prevent Duty is historically unique as never before has the UK trained its educators, medics and social care professionals to detect those who might become involved in terrorism.

Prevent operates in the pre-crime space, on a logic that an action can be prevented before an individual ever intends it. Although Prevent is often cited by Government as a crucial part of the toolkit for “preventing” terrorism there is no evidence that it works and the science underpinning the “vulnerability factors” has been widely criticised. In addition, the concepts around “radicalisation”, definitions around “extremism” and how these ideas link to the objective of Prevent, to “prevent terrorism” are linked, have never been fully explained nor are they understood by those expected to carry out the duty.

Despite concerns, millions of public sector workers have been trained to spot the signs of vulnerability to radicalisation and in doing so they refer, mainly children to Prevent, the consequence of which is that thousands of innocent individuals are treated with suspicion despite never having committed, nor intended any crime.

Concerns about Prevent

Prevent has been described as toxic, racist, Islamophobic and creating a them-and-us culture within society.
The Government has attempted to give Prevent a veneer of legitimacy by expressing it in the language of ‘safeguarding’.

We believe that Prevent has failed not only as a strategy but also the very communities it seeks to protect.

A large number of individuals, organizations and bodies have criticized Prevent (click here to see who opposes Prevent) due to a number of legitimate concerns and criticisms including but not limited to the ones below:

Children Targetted

Children as young as 3 and 4
have been referred to Prevent

Surveillance State

Over 5m people public sector workers have been trained in Prevent – the public sector have become part of the ‘security state’

Suspect Community

The Muslim community has become
the target suspect community

Chilling effect

Prevent has had a ‘chilling’ effect
on open discussion and free speech

Institutionalised Islamophobia

Prevent Training has reinforced the idea
that Muslims and Islam are the threat

Flawed Science

Prevent is based on pseudo-science, no
credible evidential basis for rolling out Prevent

Who has criticised Prevent

Predicting very rare events is extremely difficult. No tools have been developed that can reliably identify people who have been radicalised, who are at risk of radicalisation or who are likely to carry out a terrorist act. Assessment of risk is therefore best done on a case-by-case basis, as part of professional safeguarding practices. Read More >>

Prevent reinforces an ‘us’ and ‘them’ view of the world which divides communities and sows mistrust of British Muslims. It should be replaced by strategies based on dialogue, transparency and openness. Read More >>

The British Medical Association agreed a motion to support any members who refuse to take part in the Prevent training scheme. Doctors said the obligations on them were “Orwellian” “Kafka-esque” and “like a scene from Minority Report” – claiming the measures were creating “a climate of fear and mistrust”. Read More >>

In a public statement, the groups of mosques that represents up to 70,000 Muslims, has vowed to boycott the government’s anti-terrorism Prevent programme after accusing the policy of being a racist attack on the Islamic community. Read More >>

360 leading Professors, Academics, professionals in Terrorism and community leaders call for an end on Prevent including: Karen Armstrong, Professor Marc Sageman, Professor Noam Chomsky (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Professor Humayun Ansari (Royal Holloway, University of London), Professor David Miller (University of Bath) and many more. Read More >>

In a statement, religious and community leaders in Newham – who regularly draw thousands of locals into their mosques – warn that the schemes are “exclusively targeting young Muslims for the views they hold on religion or issues such as government foreign policy”. Read More >>

Frequently Asked Questions

In 2015, the Counterterrorism and Security Act passed into law. Section 29 of this Act is known as the ‘Prevent duty’. The Prevent duty placed a legal responsibility on schools, nurseries, universities, healthcare providers and the social care sector to have ‘due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.’  

While this may sound good in theory, The Prevent duty has created a securitized state in which public sector workers are trained to spots signs of ‘radicalisation’ and ‘extremism’. They are then instructed to report any concerns the Prevent Lead, who can then refer the individual to Local Authority Channel Panel. This means most often innocent individuals – and sometimes even children – encounters security services and is treated as suspicious.

However, Prevent existed as a policy long before 2015. Prevent was introduced by the New Labour government in 2003 in response to 9/11. Then the importance of the Prevent strategy increased as the government sought to deal with a risk of ‘home-grown’ terrorism in response to 7/7.

Prevent was again reviewed by the Coalition government in 2011 in order to separate direct counter-terrorism activities from integration work with communities. Integration work would no longer be part of Prevent, according to then Home Secretary Theresa May.

Despite a long British history of terrorism and counterterrorism, the Prevent Duty is historically unique. Never before has the UK trained its educators, medics and social care professionals to detect those who might become involved in terrorism.

Statistics on Prevent referrals have been long overdue and this demonstrate the lack of transparency associated  with Prevent. The statistics that were released by the Home Office for 2016 and 2017 showed a number of issues:

  1. Over 7,631 people were referred to Prevent in 2015-16
  2. 95% of the referrals did not require any intervention and were therefore false referrals
  3. Over 65% of the referrals were Muslims
  4. Over 1,500 of the 65% referrals were Muslim children under the age of 15, majority of whom did not require Channel intervention

The statistics clearly demonstrate both the failures of the policy and the disproportionate focus on Muslims, children in particular.

The Government statistics do not record Prevent referrals that are rejected by authorities. This is where families are referred to Prevent, accused of involvement with terrorism, but then rejected very early in the process. These are not recorded in the statistics but the family is left traumatised.

The majority of the people being referred to Prevent are Muslim. Over 65%, of the referrals were Muslims (2016), including nearly 2,000 Muslim children, whilst the Muslim population of the UK is less than 5%. There is clearly a disproportionate focus on Muslims for which there has been no accountability.

A significant portion of the Prevent funding has gone to ‘Muslim areas’ also referred to as ‘priority areas’. This broad-brush approach has meant all Muslims in a given area are viewed through the security lenses of terrorism, thus creating ‘suspect communities’.

Waltham Forest Council of Mosques, consisting of nine mosques, made a public statement that Prevent ‘is racist, and overtly targets members of the Muslim faith’ and further went on to state: ‘we call for a boycott of [Prevent] in all its guises’.

Panic created by the Birmingham school hoax created the environment to insert Prevent, which is a security policy, into safeguarding practice throughout the public sector. However, this has eroded trust, which is a crucial part of public service.

Recent research has shown that Prevent in fact is not safeguarding at all. Safeguarding experts, doctors and social workers among others have criticised the Prevent duty stating it is not their role to do the police’s work and act as counter-terrorism operatives because doing so eroded the trust needed for them to do their jobs properly.

Similarly, the 2-hour Prevent (WRAP) training has been criticised as being discriminatory and flawed.

During the ‘safeguarding’ assessments, families are viewed through a securitised lens. The Local Authority becomes involved in families due to alleged ‘radicalisation’ concerns, often based on information from the Police, but evidence shows families have subsequently been assessed by their religiosity and upon Islamophobic judgments rather than any genuine concerns over children’s welfare.

Prevent is not safeguarding. Rather it is an abuse of existing safeguarding policies and a threat to children’s welfare in a multicultural society.

We believe that existing safeguarding policies without Prevent are adequate to deal with any genuine safeguarding concerns. We also believe that to oppose Prevent is to guard the integrity of an effective and just public sector.

Prevent is described as being voluntary yet evidence shows that coercive tactics are being used in implementing Prevent.

Individuals are often not informed that engagement with Prevent is voluntary and feel that they have no choice but to engage with Prevent.

Simon Cole has said that Prevent is ‘voluntary’ but if individuals do not cooperate with Prevent, this will make the police suspicious and they may initiate the Pursue strand of Contest (UK’s counter terrorism strategy). This is how we are in fact seeing Prevent being implemented on the ground and it renders obsolete the alleged ‘voluntary’ nature of Prevent.

Prevent criticism is consistently dismissed by Prevent leads and practitioners as ‘myths’, even with a number of cases showing that the policy is flawed and Islamophobic. Two cases they often highlight are ‘Terrorist House‘ case and ‘Cucumber‘ case – both are detailed on our website and we recommend you read and judge for yourself.

These cases are the result of the environment created by Prevent and counter-terrorism policies under which Muslim children, and the community at large, are viewed through a securitized lens, and are presumed guilty.

Prevent Watch has documented over 400 cases of individuals impacted by Prevent, with the youngest cases being 3 years old.

Many people, organisations and bodies have spoken out against Prevent, below are just a few examples:

The Joint Committee on Human Rights has called for an independent review of Prevent in its report on the new Counter Terrorism and Border Security Bill to which Prevent Watch also submitted evidence.

National Union of Teachers have called for Prevent strategy to be scrapped citing the impact Prevent has had on free and open debates in schools, impact on teacher-student relationships and causing Muslim students to fear expressing their opinions and openly practicing their religion.

The British Medical Association agreed a motion to support any members who refuse to take part in the Prevent training scheme. Doctors said the obligations on them were “Orwellian” “Kafka-esque” and “like a scene from Minority Report” – claiming the measures were creating “a climate of fear and mistrust”. Read More >>

Predicting very rare events is extremely difficult. No tools have been developed that can reliably identify people who have been radicalised, who are at risk of radicalisation or who are likely to carry out a terrorist act. Assessment of risk is therefore best done on a case-by-case basis, as part of professional safeguarding practices. Read More >>

Following a country visit to the UK in 2016, Maina Kiai, former UN special rapporteur on freedom of assembly, has stated that “by dividing, stigmatizing and alienating segments of population, Prevent could end up promoting extremism, rather than countering it’’.

UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance noted that PREVENT was “inherently flawed”, “vague” and lacked any supportive evidence demonstrating its success while the UN Special Rapporteur on Right to Privacy stated that representatives of British Muslims reported that PREVENT is “dividing, stigmatising and alienating communities” recommending that “sufficient resources to be allocated by the UK Government to reinforce the evidence-base as to the previse impact of PREVENT and similar measures on privacy and other fundamental rights”.

In a public statement, the groups of mosques that represents up to 70,000 Muslims, has vowed to boycott the government’s anti-terrorism Prevent programme after accusing the policy of being a racist attack on the Islamic community. Read More >>

360 leading Professors, Academics, professionals in Terrorism and community leaders call for an end on Prevent including: Karen Armstrong, Professor Marc Sageman, Professor Noam Chomsky (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Professor Humayun Ansari (Royal Holloway, University of London), Professor David Miller (University of Bath) and many more. Read the statement here.

The Government has largely ignored the mounting evidence and increasing calls for an independent review of Prevent. If Prevent remains, it will continue to cause more alienation and harm and must therefore be reviewed and ultimately scrapped.

Prevent is a failed and counter-productive policy based on flawed science which was never meant to be used on such a wide scale. Over 140 experts signed an open letter criticising the science from which the “risk factors” used in Prevent derive. Prevent is based on a flawed understanding of ‘radicalisation’ and is focused on ideology rather than other factors, such as domestic and foreign policy grievances, which research, including statements by former Deputy Director General of MI5, shows play a greater role in politically motivated violence but which the government continues to ignore.

As a result, there have been serious human rights and civil liberties concerns raised about Prevent, which statistics and our cases clearly evidence has predominantly been used to target Muslims and silence dissent, This is impacting thousands each year. Prevent has caused irreversible damage from schools to healthcare. Prevent has had a toxic effect across the board as parents and children have lost confidence and trust in authorities, while university students are now self-censoring as a result of Prevent’s chilling effect.

“By dividing, stigmatizing and alienating segments of population, Prevent could end up promoting extremism, rather than countering it” — United Nations

About Prevent Watch

Prevent Watch is a community-led initiative which supports people impacted by Prevent. We empower clients and build confidence in the community by supplying them with the tools they require to combat Prevent and the environment of fear that it has created.

Established in September 2015, Prevent Watch has supported almost 600 individuals to date, and remains the only organisation focused on Prevent.

Our Services

Supported by the Community to Serve the Community

We provide a FREE help line and support services for people impacted by Prevent.

We publish reports, briefing papers and media material based on real cases.

We raise awareness on Prevent cases via Media both online and offline media.

We maintain a directory of lawyers to support cases and ensure rights are protected.

Our Events

Exclusive dinner 2020

An Exclusive dinner to mark 5 years of providing support services to people impacted by the Prevent Duty.

Exclusive dinner 2021

An Exclusive dinner to mark 6 years of providing support services to people impacted by the Prevent Duty.

Download our annual reports

People’s Review of Prevent Launch

We are pleased to launch the People’s Review of Prevent, an alternative to the review conducted for the government by William Shawcross. Where Shawcross has dismissed criticisms of Prevent, we have worked over the past 6 months to provide a voice to those most impacted by Prevent.