New body to investigate complaints about Prevent counter-terror scheme

Standards and Compliance Unit aims to 'promote transparency, trust and accountability' of Prevent

Armed police outside Downing Street in London. EPA
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A new organisation has been established to process and investigate complaints about the UK government’s Prevent counter-terrorism programme.

The move follows former attorney general William Shawcross claiming ministers had “ignored” some of his key recommendations for Prevent, a programme to stop people becoming radicalised.

“It’s my view that Prevent has a vital role to play in keeping our country safe from the evils of terrorism and extremism," said Robin Simcox, the commissioner for countering extremism.

“That’s why it’s so important that it continues to keep the trust and confidence of the public and StaCU [the Standards and Compliance Unit] will help achieve that.”

The unit will also ensure Prevent is being delivered within the direction set by ministers.

It is being billed as a clear, independent and accessible way that people can give feedback on how Prevent is being run.

An online form will be available for people, practitioners and members of the public, to raise their concerns.

The unit will review each complaint confidentially and work with statutory bodies and existing complaints processes when further investigation is needed.

As it reviews each complaint, it should also update the person who lodged it on the outcome.

Mr Simcox said the unit would “process and investigate complaints about Prevent” and aims to “promote transparency, trust and accountability” of the programme.

The unit gives the public the chance to “raise concerns” about Prevent and make sure the government’s anti-terror programme is “being delivered properly”, he told a briefing.

Examples of what the unit will investigate include “missed opportunities to refer individuals” and “inappropriate” referrals, as well as concerns about training.

The unit will review each complaint confidentially and analyse data about complaints made, Mr Simcox said.

If ministers have concerns about “potential failings” they will be able to order the unit to carry out investigations.

Annual reports will also be published setting out details on how many complaints have been received and their nature.

Published last year, the review called for an overhaul of the Prevent programme, with then-home secretary Suella Braverman saying it needed “major reform” and must focus on security, “not political correctness”.

The programme needs to “better understand the threats we face and the ideology underpinning them”, Ms Braverman said, after a long-awaited report made a host of recommendations for improvement.

Mr Shawcross had told the BBC: “The government has published a report saying that they have made some of those changes that I asked for, that I proposed – but not enough.

“And I think, as a result, the public is at risk”.

The government claims 30 of the 34 recommendations made by Mr Shawcross have already been delivered, while “progress has been made against each of the remaining recommendations”.

In the 12 months to March 31, 2023, there were 6,817 referrals to Prevent, which was a 6.4 per cent increase on the previous year [6,406].

Ninety per cent of the people in the programme were male [6,125] and the most common age group referred were aged 15 to 20 [2,203, or 32 per cent].

Updated: February 28, 2024, 12:26 AM