Security think tank investigates British military and police over far-right radicalisation

In the past three years 40 military personnel have been investigated over extremism concerns

Security researchers are investigating how to prevent extremism in the British military.  EPA
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A security think tank is carrying out an investigation into the British military and police over concerns about far-right radicalisation.

The announcement comes as the Ministry of Defence revealed that 40 soldiers, sailors and air force personnel had been investigated over concerns of extremism since records began in 2019.

The government’s counterterrorism Prevent strategy has dealt with 20 referrals connected with extreme right-wing activity.

Experts from the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) said they fear a lack of diversity is a risk factor.

Their research is expected to make training recommendations to prevent extremism.

"We have been looking particularly at the issue of the far-right because that is beginning to come to the fore," Dr Jessica White told an online seminar hosted by Rusi.

"The threat is changing from Islamist extremism, which we have been focusing on in the past, and it is now changing.

"The percentage of people who actually go on to commit an act of violence is tiny. We are just trying to identify how we can prevent these individuals from going on to commit right-wing violence because they have been radicalised.

"It is not an attempt to vilify the military, it is needed research. "

Her college, fellow Rusi researcher Claudia Wallner said the aim of the research was to improve the ways in which extremism is tackled.

"We are looking at the UK's police and military. From our research we know that there are these gender norms present in most military and police across the world," she said.

"Their training environment and intensive boot camps play an important role in moulding them into members of its ranks. But joining, moving or leaving the group can help radicalise them.

"So a big part of this is training and education. With this project we want to look at how things are in the UK police and military and what the implications are for preventative activities.

"We want to use the knowledge from this research to see how we can improve measures ... to prevent violent extremism in the UK's police and military."

Incidents of far-right activity in the British military include the referral of two sailors to the Prevent scheme in 2020 over their support of white nationalist group Generation Identity.

In 2017, four soldiers were arrested under anti-terrorism laws for being members of banned neo-Nazi group National Action.

Updated: June 21, 2023, 7:33 AM