Islamic extremists to be given counselling

counselling.jpgIslamic extremists could escape prosecution and instead receive therapy and counselling under new Government plans to “deradicalise” religious fanatics.

By James Kirkup | The Home Office is to announce an extra £12.5 million to support new initiatives to try to stop extremism spreading.

The central element of the Home Office plan is a new national “deradicalisation” programme that would persuade converts to violent and extremist causes to change their views.

Controversially, the new plan makes clear that people who fall under the influence of violent organisations will not automatically face prosecution.

Instead, the presumption should be that some such individuals would face therapy and counselling from community groups instead of criminal charges.

Documents being distributed to local councils explain that many people who get drawn into extremism have often suffered some sort of personal trauma or crisis that makes them vulnerable to exploitation.

“We do not want to put through the criminal justice system those who are vulnerable to, or are being drawn into, violent extremism unless they have clearly committed an offence,” a Home Office report says.

“It is vital that individuals and communities understand this and have the confidence to use the support structures that we shall be developing.”

Most of the new funding will be set aside for grants to community groups that challenge the messages of violent extremists should be supported.

The plan includes a suggestion that local councils should map their areas religion, surveying and recording the faiths and denominations of local residents.

New guidelines for councils say: “A deeper understanding of local communities should be developed to help inform and focus the programme of action – this may include mapping denominational backgrounds and demographic and socio-economic factors.”

The Home Office has told councils they must be prepared to ask police to vet anyone involved in projects that receive government anti-radicalisation funding.

If a group is found to be promoting violent extremism, local agencies and the police should consider disrupting or removing funding, and deny access to public facilities, the document added.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said: “A key element of our strategy aims to stop people getting involved in extremist violence.

“We are investing at local level to build resilient communities, which are equipped to confront violent extremism and support the most vulnerable individuals.”

Shadow home secretary David Davis said of today’s publication: “This is pointless when the Government is fuelling the problem it is seeking to solve with its draconian approach to 42 days.”