UK government reviewing Prevent anti-terror scheme

Home Secretary Priti Patel warns of threat from 'lone wolf' attackers, as MPs voice safety fears

The UK government will continue its review into the Prevent anti-radicalisation scheme following the fatal stabbing of Conservative MP Sir David Amess.

Home Secretary Priti Patel on Sunday said the long-awaited review, which was initially launched in 2019, would ensure the scheme was “fit for purpose” and would indicate where the system needs strengthening.

On Saturday, it emerged that the main suspect in the stabbing, Ali Harbi Ali, was on the Prevent programme several years ago, only to be removed.

Mr Ali, described as a British citizen of Somali heritage, has been detained under the Terrorism Act and was being questioned at a London police station.

“Prevent is going through an independent review right now,” Ms Patel told Sky News.

“It’s timely to do that, we have to learn, we obviously constantly have to learn, not just from incidents that have taken place but how we can strengthen our programmes.”

With an annual budget of around £40 million ($55m), Prevent aims to stop people from becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism.

Former justice secretary Robert Buckland said more co-operation between schools, the health service and other public agencies was required to ensure security forces can intervene early to prevent terror attacks.

Mr Buckland said he hoped the review being led by former Charity Commission chairman William Shawcross would “urgently” lead to a more “joined-up” approach.

“I very much hope that when it comes to community supervision and community involvement with people like this particular individual, that it is much more joined-up between health services, education, whatever it might be, who have had some involvement with that individual in the past,” he told Times Radio.

“And I think that element of being joined-up is what we really need to work on urgently.”

Nazir Afzal, a former chief prosecutor with the UK's Crown Prosecution Service, also said the system was not working in its current guise.

“What’s so depressing is Prevent’s deradicalisation programme is failing on too many occasions,” he said on Twitter.

On Sunday, the Home Secretary announced politicians were being offered “immediate” security changes, including plans to provide police protection while they held constituency surgeries.

Asked if she would consider airport-style security, Ms Patel said: “That would be with the police and the House [Parliamentary] authorities. There are lots of things under consideration already.”

MPs could also be asked to share their whereabouts at all times with police, she said.

Ms Patel said security services were watching for people who may have become radicalised online during coronavirus lockdowns and pose the threat of a “lone wolf” attack.

“Threats are always there and if you listen to my colleagues, even the director general of MI5, he has spoken publicly about lone actors”, she said on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

The Labour party's shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy admitted she did not feel safe in public in her Wigan constituency and was not sure the threat to MPs could ever be fully eliminated.

Andrew Rosindell, the MP for Romford said MPs were “a little bit” frightened after the fatal stabbing and that “if it could happen to David, it could happen to any MP”.

Amess, 69, who had been an MP since 1983, was meeting constituents at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, on Friday afternoon when he was stabbed multiple times in a frenzied attack.

His death comes five years after the Labour MP for Batley and Spen, Jo Cox, was murdered in 2016 as she was on her way to a constituency surgery.

Updated: October 18th 2021, 4:11 PM
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