Failing Prevent counter-terror scheme 'needs a major overhaul'

Failing Prevent counter-terror scheme ‘needs a major overhaul’ after report found huge gaps in the programme

  • A report by William Shawcross has found gaps in counter-terrorism programme
  • Government’s Prevent scheme is intended to combat Islamism and other threats
  • Review found taxpayers’ money went to groups promoting Islamist extremism 

A landmark review will call for a complete overhaul of the Government’s flagship counter-terrorism programme after a series of institutional failures.

The Prevent scheme is intended to combat Islamism as well as other threats, including far-Right extremists and those with ‘mixed, unstable or unclear’ ideologies.

But a report by William Shawcross, the former head of the Charity Commission, is understood to have found huge gaps in the programme.

The Home Office-commissioned review, yet to be published, even found Prevent had channelled taxpayers’ money to groups promoting Islamist extremism.

A report by William Shawcross (pictured) will call for an overhaul of the Government’s counter-terrorism programme Prevent

A source familiar with the report said last night: ‘The Shawcross report will call for an overhaul of the entire system.

‘There has been an inability of the State as a whole to grapple with a huge amount of buck-passing from one organisation to another. There have been institutional failures, a lack of proper scrutiny and a lack of accountability.’ 

Prevent, set up in 2006, is meant to bring police, security services and the NHS together with local government officials – including social services and education staff – to identify those at risk of radicalisation.

But it has suffered a series of high-profile failures. Ali Harbi Ali, the murderer of Tory politician Sir David Amess, was dismissed as a terrorist threat by experts just months before he bought a knife to kill MPs. 

Usman Khan, 28, who stabbed two graduates to death on London Bridge in 2019, had come into contact with Prevent officers with ‘no specific training’ in handling terrorists.

Prevent officials were also warned Khairi Saadallah could carry out a terror attack but he was found to have ‘no fixed ideology’ before he fatally stabbed three men in a Reading park in 2020.

Parsons Green bomber Ahmed Hassan had been referred to ‘Channel’ – part of Prevent – but managed to plot his attack under the nose of mentors in 2017.

Since its inception in 2006 a key role of Prevent has been distributing grants to grassroots Islamic groups to steer young Muslims away from radicalisation.

But in May, leaked extracts from Mr Shawcross’s review found some community organisations funded by Prevent had ‘promoted extremist narratives’.

Other recipients of grants had hosted hate preachers and defended militant Islamist groups banned in the UK.

‘Handing taxpayers’ money to dodgy organisations is clearly not something that should be happening,’ a source said. 

‘This is a result of the civil service not doing proper due diligence checks, and that must change.’

Mr Shawcross was appointed the Government’s independent reviewer of Prevent in January 2021. 

His report is understood to have been handed to the then home secretary Priti Patel in the summer, but publication was delayed by the Tory leadership battles.

There has been concern too many of Prevent’s resources were directed at the far-Right, despite Islamism posing a greater risk to life.

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