Priti Patel vows to overhaul Prevent in wake of David Amess murder

Priti Patel vows to overhaul Prevent in wake of David Amess murder amid concern anti-terror strategy focuses too much on right-wing extremism and not enough on Islamist threat

  • Priti Patel has vowed to overhaul Britain’s flagship deradicalisation programme
  • The Prevent scheme has faced criticism for not identifying multiple extremists
  • Critics believe resources are being diverted from tackling Islamic extremism

Priti Patel has vowed to overhaul Prevent in the wake of David Amess’ murder amid concern the flagship anti-terror strategy focuses too much on right-wing extremism instead of its more dangerous Islamist equivalent. 

The initiative has faced intense criticism for failing to identify a succession of extremists who went on to commit horrific murders.

In the most recent case, it emerged last week that Ali Harbi Ali, the murderer of Sir David Amess, was dismissed as a terrorist threat by experts just months before he bought a knife to hunt down MPs.

Critics have repeatedly said Prevent had been skewed away from the key threat posed by Islamist terrorism. As a result, it claimed, anti-terror resources are being diverted from the principal terror threat to the UK – Islamist extremism.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has vowed to overhaul the much criticised Prevent strategy

Sir David’s killer Ali Harbi Ali – who was sentenced to a whole life order – had been referred to the programme in 2014 but a year later it was concluded he no longer posed a threat

Ian Acheson, Senior Advisor at the Counter Extremism Project, agreed Prevent needed to change. 

He tweeted today: ‘As the Home Secretary says and some of us have been saying for a while, Prevent has morphed into a strategy that awards a (convenient) completely false equivalence between Islamist and XRW threat and is swamped by mission creep. Time for a reset.’

Meanwhile, Lord Carlile of Berriew, a former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation who previously led the review of Prevent, told the Times that Prevent had an ‘overemphasis on right-wing extremism’ because of an ‘overemphasis on not being anti-Muslim’.

The Henry Jackson Society’s Dr Alan Mendoza said: ‘This shake-up could not come soon enough… Priti Patel should be congratulated for cutting through the Home Office bureaucracy to make it happen. 

‘Her reforms must be allowed to restore Prevent to its founding purpose – cracking down on terrorism.’

Reading attacker Khairi Saadallah, 27, (left) was assessed by Prevent officials but found to have ‘no fixed ideology’, according to reports. Sudesh Amman, who stabbed two people in Streatham, south London, last February. However, a panel decided his case did not require intervention

Usman Khan, 28, (left) who stabbed two young graduates to death after a prisoner rehabilitation event on London Bridge, had come into contact with Prevent officers who had ‘no specific training’ in handling terrorists, an inquest heard. Parsons Green bomber Ahmed Hassan was also referred to the anti-terror scheme 20 months before he planted a device on the Tube that injured 50 people during rush hour in 2017

 Now Miss Patel has pledged that ‘things need to change’ once she has been handed the findings of a long-awaited independent review of Prevent.

‘The Prevent review is really important to me,’ the Home Secretary said.

‘I can’t pre-judge that review. But it is quite clear to me from my own observations that there are things that need to change.’

The review, commissioned by Miss Patel in January last year, is being conducted by William Shawcross, the former Charity Commission chief. It is understood to be near completion.

Prevent was set up in 2006, and was designed to combat Islamist extremism as well as other threats, including far-Right fanatics and those with ‘mixed or unstable’ ideologies. 

The UK’s flagship anti-terror strategy is being undermined by a politically correct emphasis on right-wing extremism over more dangerous Islamist radicalism, critics have said – as a review prepares to overhaul the ‘broken’ system

Confidential referrals can be made to Prevent by anyone who is concerned about a person’s behaviour, including faith groups, schools, colleges, and even friends and relatives.

A documentary to be shown tonight reveals that out of the 13 terror attacks in the past five years – which left 14 dead and 128 injured – seven offenders were known to the scheme. 

A former teacher of Ali told Channel 4’s Dispatches she warned the authorities he could pose a risk seven years before he murdered Sir David last October. 

She said: ‘They just said, ‘We don’t think he’s a threat. We don’t think he’s worth taking on any further. We think he’s going to be all right’.’  

  • Dispatches: Are We Losing the War on Terror? is on Channel 4 at 7.30pm tonight.

Blunders that left fanatics free to kill 

  • Ali Harbi Ali, 26, secretly plotted his murderous act of terrorism for years, despite being referred to Prevent. He stabbed Sir David Amess MP to death last October. He was sentenced to a whole-life term in prison last week.
  • Khairi Saadallah, 27, fatally stabbed three men in a Reading park in 2020. Prevent officials were warned he could carry out a ‘London Bridge-style attack’ but he was found to have ‘no fixed ideology’.
  • Usman Khan, 28, stabbed two graduates to death near London Bridge in 2019 and had come into contact with Prevent officers. However, they had ‘no specific training’ in handling terrorists and failed to spot the threat he posed.
  • Parsons Green bomber Ahmed Hassan, then 18, was referred to the scheme but managed to plot his attack on a Tube train under the nose of mentors in 2017. Officials even considered closing his case ten days before his bomb injured 51.
  • A Prevent panel decided the case of Sudesh Amman did not require intervention. The 20-year-old went on to stab two people in London in 2019 before he was shot dead by police.

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