Prevent Watch

How the Manchester Arena Inquiry justly undermines Shawcross report

The Shawcross Report was released just prior to Manchester Arena Inquiry but the Inquiry undermines his report, especially in his attempt to shunt Muslim-led civil society groups into the same frame as terrorism.

Shawcross states, “Challenging extremist ideology should not be limited to proscribed organisations but should also cover domestic extremists operating below the terrorism threshold who can create an environment conducive to terrorism” (paragraph 1.5).

Two organisations are singled out in the Shawcross report – MEND and CAGE – though a separate report by Policy Exchange extends the accusation to other organisations in an indication of what is to come.

The clearest statement by Mr Shawcross is in his discussion of the Manchester Arena Bombing provided in a box within his report, entitled ‘The case of Salman and Hashem Abedi’ (pages 138-40).

It states,

“Information in the public domain suggests that Salman may have started to become more radical in 2013, and that the plot itself began a year in advance, in May 2016. For much of that period Salman was enrolled as a student at the University of Salford. This could have been an opportunity for someone to have observed signs of Salman’s radicalisation, and to have made a referral. No referral was made, and during these years there was intense anti-Prevent activism at the university.

In November 2015, the anti-Prevent campaign group MEND held an event there, hosted by the students’ union. Months later, in February 2016, the students’ union passed a motion boycotting Prevent and committing to educate students about the “dangers” of the scheme. In May of that year Salman dropped out of his course and, with his brother, began to take steps to plan their attack. The evidence suggests the signs the brothers were becoming radicalised were there to see.”

Shawcross cites evidence presented to the Manchester Arena Inquiry, but published his report three weeks before the final report of that inquiry was published on March 2nd.

One section addresses the institutions with which Salman Abedi was engaged. The findings are very different from those of the Shawcross Report:

“None of the educational establishments that SA attended were at fault in failing to identify him as being at risk of being radicalised or drawn into terrorism. No single institution had a comprehensive-enough view of SA’s behaviour, family situation or potential risk factors, over a sufficiently long period of time, to recognise his descent into violent Islamist extremism” (page 28).

Equally, “The mosques attended by SA and HA were not an active factor or cause in their radicalisation” (page 28).

In so far as blame is attached, it is to the Prison Service and to the security services in their handling of Salman Abedi when he was a Subject of Interest and might have been referred to Prevent.

Mr Shawcross seems to have believed that the Manchester Arena Inquiry would support his own claims. It does not.

It is evident that the Shawcross Report is tendentious and smears organisations in an unwarranted and inflammatory manner.

The Shawcross Report’s cavalier approach to evidence is indicated by the fact that a very large proportion of his citations are to media reports.

These do not contain statements of fact that have been tested.

Nonetheless, it is clear that the report uses their claims to justify the declaration that individuals and organisations should be publicly described as ‘extremist’ and, in effect, ‘de-platformed’ from participation in public life.

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