After the recent attacks, is it time for the government to rethink the Prevent strategy against radicalisation?
YES – Brendan O’Neill, editor of Spiked Online.
Never mind rethinking Prevent – we should entirely scrap this chilling strategy. First because it has failed to live up to its name. It hasn't prevented anything. The 34 deaths in three acts of barbarism over the past three months are ghastly testimony to the inefficacy of Prevent. And second because it lays to waste the very thing we're meant to be defending against IS-style violence: liberty. Through green-lighting spying on schoolkids and NHS patients for signs of radicalism, and controlling who gets to speak on campus, Prevent has ushered in an era of suspicion and speech-policing that runs directly counter to politicians' promises to defend our open way of life against those who hate it. To counter the nasty new extremism we need to bolster civic life and embolden citizens to live and breathe and make the case for freedom. Prevent makes this harder, by chipping away at liberty, killing it in the name of defending it.
NO – Nazir Afzal, former chief prosecutor and pro-chancellor Brunel University .
Prevent is safeguarding, pure and simple. In any other sphere it would be accepted. For example, if you suspect someone in your office is suffering domestic abuse or a child in a school is being bullied online, you wouldn’t think twice about signposting them for help. However, if your concern is that they are being radicalised, then suddenly you are “spying” and “discriminating”. Yes, people need better training to improve their communication and judgment, but we do a fine job most of the time – from protecting 150 people from travelling to Syria, including 50 kids, to taking down 250,000 extremist websites. And don't forget 25 per cent of referrals are for those at risk of far right ideology. When a returnee soldier was being groomed by neo-Nazis, it was a Prevent-funded charity that helped him with addiction, housing and mental health issues. Not only is he protected from radicalisers, he is now a fully functioning member of society.