Far-right extremist reports to UK's Prevent outnumber those on Islamists for first time

The Prevent scheme to fight extremism has come under fire amid accusations it unfairly targets Muslims

Far-right ideology has overtaken Islamist extremism as the biggest cause of referrals to the UK Government's anti-radicalisation programme for the first time, figures show.

About 25 per cent of cases, or 1,229 reports, sent to Prevent raised the alarm on suspected far-right radicalisation in the year from April 2020 to March 2021, the Home Office said.

For the same period, the number of Islamist radicalisation referrals was 22 per cent of cases or 1,064 reports.

The Prevent scheme to fight extremism has come under fire in recent years amid accusations it unfairly targets Muslims.

In June, the parents of a Muslim boy, 11, began legal action after a teacher misheard him saying "arms" instead of "alms" and referred him to Prevent without their knowledge.

Prevent aims to protect people from becoming radicalised. Referrals are put to a Channel panel that decides if those people would benefit from more support and its programme.

The effects of coronavirus restrictions led to the first drop in referrals since records began in 2016. In total, 4,915 were made, 22 per cent lower than last year.

Referrals for people with mixed, unstable or unclear ideologies made up for more than half of the total with 2,522.

Of the total, 1,770 (36 per cent) of referrals to the Prevent programme were made by police, 1,221 by people in education and 325 by the prison and probation service.

The vast majority, 88 per cent, were made in relation to men and the most common age was between 15 and 20.

Concerns over extreme right-wing radicalisation among teenagers have grown in recent years.

In September, MI5 director general Ken McCallum said the presence of teenagers is a "rising trend in MI5's counter-terrorist casework" and is becoming more so in extreme right-wing investigations.

A study published this year also suggested extremist views are widespread in classrooms across the country.

The report from the University College London Institute of Education found that most teachers spoken to by the researchers said they had heard pupils express far-right extremist views in their classroom, as well as "extremist views about women" or Islamophobia.

Almost all of the teachers surveyed had encountered "hateful extremism" in the form of racist views in the classroom, the report said.

"Prevent remains a vital tool for early intervention and safeguarding," a Home Office spokesman said.

"We will not allow extremists or terrorists to spread hate or sow diversion, and Prevent remains an important tool to help divert people away from harm."

From 2012 to March 2020, almost 3,000 people were taken on by Prevent's voluntary and confidential Channel programme.

As part of Prevent, there is tailored support for a person considered vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism.

In the year ended March 31, 2020, there were 6,287 referrals to Prevent.

Updated: November 19th 2021, 12:02 AM