Charity challenges police secrecy over Prevent referrals data

Law reform charity Justice has challenged an attempt to keep Prevent referrals data secret by two of England’s largest police forces – West Midlands and Merseyside.

Justice asked ten English police forces for anonymised figures on the ethnicity, age, and gender of the people they referred to the Prevent programme from 2017 to 2022. All forces denied the request.

West Midlands, Merseyside, and eight other police forces responded with near-identical refusals on grounds of national security and law enforcement, despite:

  • In 2022, the Home Office releasing similar but, in Justice’s view, far more granular, demographic data on those people referred to Prevent who progressed further through the process (i.e. to the ‘Channel panel’);
  • The ability for the forces to release requested data in an anonymised form if needed; and
  • The law requiring decisions to be based on the individual facts of the case rather than a broad-brush approach.

The First-tier Tribunal on Friday heard Justice’s appeal against two decisions by the Information Commissioner, which included:

  • that the IC and the police forces were wrong to apply the national security exemption to the request
  • they did not correctly weigh up the very strong public interest in police accountability (i.e., allowing people to assess how Prevent is operating and how the police are using their powers), in safeguarding policing by consent through transparency, and in promoting evidence-based policy making.



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