Counter-terrorism projects run by the Government must be reviewed immediately, according to the most senior UK counter-terrorism officer, Neil Basu.
The Prevent scheme should be “revamped” after a number of calls from Muslim communities who say they are being unfairly targeted, Basu said.
Teachers across the country have refused to take part in Prevent, one of the government’s four prong elements of fighting terrorism on home ground.
Tens of thousands of people have been referred to the authorities through the Home Office program, and there remains, according to Basu, a “hangover of toxicity” around Prevent.
The Met deputy assistant commissioner admitted change must come over the divisive command which has led to accusations of spying on Muslims.
“Government will not thank me for saying this, but an independent reviewer of Prevent… would be a healthy thing… Prevent is, as a Prevent officer who used to work for me said, five percent of the budget but 85 percent of the conversation,” he said.
Basu blasted the Conservative Government for failing to get the message to communities, and not making them feel safe.
“Rather than the government handing over a sum of money and then it becoming state-sponsored with accusations of demonising communities, it should be locally generated,” he said.
“We have gotten all of that messaging the wrong way around, it should be grassroots up.”
In the interview, Raffaello Pantucci, the director of International Security Studies at security think tank Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), said an independent reviewer must be found.
“People need to understand that this is about stopping people in the pre-criminal space ever getting anywhere near criminality. And Prevent needs to concentrate on how it does that. That cannot be a job for the police and security services. That has got to be a wider societal pillar,” he added.
“The more that policing and security service could withdraw from Prevent in order to focus Prevent work on problem-solving within communities and getting communities to deal with it, the better in the long-term,” he told the Counter Terrorism Centre.
He added that Prevent “is owned by the government” and that instead local communities should “take the lead” in combating terrorism.
“Local leaders around the country should be standing up and talking about this, not central government, security services, and counter-terrorism police,” he explained.
“Communities should be talking about protecting themselves from the grassroots up.”
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