Britain’s finest chance of lowering terrorist violence risks being damaged amid a huge backlash to the federal government’s option of William Shawcross to lead an evaluation of Prevent, the country’s leading counter-terrorism officer has told the Guardian.
Assistant commissioner Neil Basu’s remarks came after essential human rights and Muslim groups revealed a boycott of the main evaluation of Prevent, which aims to stop Britons being radicalised into violent extremism.
It was hoped the evaluation would stop consistent criticism that has dogged the government’s counter-radicalisation plan and weakened Prevent’s authenticity.
Rather, the consultation of Shawcross by the home secretary, Priti Patel, threatens to leave the review struggling for trustworthiness, with critics stating Shawcross was the incorrect option due to the fact that of alleged anti-Muslim remarks in the past.
Patel selected the author and broadcaster, who is likewise a fellow with the rightwing thinktank Policy Exchange, over Nazir Afzal, the previous chief crown prosecutor in the north-west who is from a Muslim background.
In a surprise intervention, Basu said the participation of critics in the official evaluation was vital which “only when all sides of the discussion are heard can this evaluation attain what it sets out to attain”.
The boycott of the Shawcross-led review was revealed recently by groups consisting of Amnesty International, Liberty, the Runnymede trust, and others from Muslim communities.
For Basu, the stakes could not be greater. He stated he saw Avoid as the most important part of the fight versus violent extremism from both Islamists and the far best.
Basu, who is extremely regarded in Whitehall and viewed as a possible next head of Scotland Lawn, told the Guardian: “I have constantly believed and stated openly that Prevent is the most important pillar of our counter-terrorism method, and counter-terrorism police have actually long been supporters of an independent review.
” We will, naturally, work with the government’s chosen customer, since our company believe the procedure will give our Prevent specialists the opportunity to share their many years of know-how and insight, with the hope of bringing long lasting enhancement to this crucial strategy.
” But we likewise acknowledge how important the assistance and trust of our neighborhoods will be if we are to continue to secure susceptible people, and so it is with terrific frustration that I read some crucial groups prepare to boycott the evaluation entirely.
” I would advise them to reassess, due to the fact that only when all sides of the conversation are heard can this evaluation attain what it sets out to achieve.
” But it is my hope that even if they do not mean to participate in the review, they will consider working with counter-terrorism policing to attempt and discover some commonalities and ultimately help us improve our defense of those who need it.”
The background to why counter-terrorism chiefs believe Prevent is so important is the requirement to slow down the constant flow of those enticed by terrorism, with the realisation that more arrests and jail sentences are insufficient.
There was a huge development in terrorist activity triggered by the increase of Islamic State, with counter-terrorism operations increasing by 50% from 2015 to 2017. They have remained high ever since, with the threat from the extreme rightwing likewise growing.
The Guardian understands there are severe concerns in counter-terrorism circles at Shawcross’s visit, and the foreseeable hostile reaction to it, which is so strong that the evaluation’s reliability may already be fatally flawed.
The federal government has had a hard time for over a year to designate a chair of the Prevent review.
In August 2019 the government initially picked Lord Carlile to chair the review with the aim of improving the legitimacy of Prevent. The scheme has ended up being a “poisonous brand” within Muslim neighborhoods, with some viewing it as a state tool for spying.
However in December 2019 Carlile was come by the government after criticism that he might not earn the self-confidence of neighborhoods viewed as important to Avoid’s authenticity and success. It followed a legal challenge that argued he was designated without a proper procedure and had evident predisposition.
Lord Carlile informed the Guardian: “I have full self-confidence that William Shawcross will produce a well thought-out review and I am very disappointed in the rejection of a variety of NGOs to cooperate with this evaluation.”
The chair of the review has a staff of around 9 people, who have been awaiting more than a year for a brand-new chair to be selected.
One other shortlisted prospect was Nazir Afzal, the former chief crown district attorney in north-west England.
In a 2019 Guardian interview, Basu said Prevent had actually been the least successful part of the UK’s counter-terrorism technique and had at times been “terribly handled”.