On 8 February, the long awaited report – the Independent Review of Prevent – conducted by the commissioner for public appointments William Shawcross, was published after much scepticism, delay and controversy, even from within the cabinet.
Prior to its publication, Open Rights Group joined a range of civil society groups in boycotting the review and contributed to an alternative – the People’s Review of Prevent – and its chapter on data protection, preceding and preempting the contents of the official report.
That’s because even before the process began, Shawcross’s track record of Islamophobic comments during his tenure as director of the right wing think tank the Henry Jackson Society, provided little faith that the review would be free from bias and fair to a community that has previously been most targeted by the policy.
The Prevent Duty, born in the wake of 9/11 as part of the government’s counter-terrorism strategy, places a duty on public authorities to identify and report radical behaviour in a bid to prevent terrorism before it happens. It had typically profiled Muslims in the face of rising so-called Islamist terrorism.
As the strategy has evolved, other forms of extremism have been captured by the duty’s remit, including that of the far-right. In recent statistics, “Extreme Right-Wing concerns” formed more referrals under Prevent than Islamist concerns for the second year and more of those referred on to de-radicalisation programmes known as Channel.
However, in his 188-page assessment, Shawcross dismissed the scourge of far-right extremism and determined that professionals burdened with the duty simply don’t understand