End Counterproductive Counter-terror

Join our call for an independent review to overhaul the failed Prevent programme
End Counter-productive Counter-terror
The Government strategy is a form of regulation “likely to provoke what they seek to prevent”
Baroness O’Neill of Bengarve

Effectively countering terrorism is one of the biggest challenges we face in the UK. It is crucial not just to our safety and security, but to our cohesion as a society and the defence of our way of living – including our basic rights and freedoms.

The Government’s approach to this – known as the Prevent strategy – isn’t working.

Since its introduction, it has left a trail of discrimination and distrust in its wake. Distinguished experts, politicians from all parties and community members have long called for an overhaul. But the Government has been unwilling to budge.


Prevent worsens the problems it seeks to combat by facilitating discrimination and alienating whole communities, spreading fear and suspicion, shutting down debate and driving those with violent views ideas underground where police have a harder time identifying potential attackers.

Attacking free expression

Violent extremism is rightly the concern of the police and the criminal law – but Prevent guidance sets out a loose and vague definition of extremism which includes vocal opposition to ‘British values’ and anything a politician might consider ‘extreme.’

There is no evidence to support the view that the expression of illiberal or unpleasant views leads to terrorism.

But the requirement on schools, universities and others to broadly police our speech and ideas has had a chilling effect on free expression and gives authorities too much power.

Independent review

This is why Prevent is facing a tide of criticism from independent experts and politicians of all parties – as well as ordinary families, teachers, faith groups, former senior police and campaigners.

“[Prevent] has become more and more top-down in recent years and has lost community buy-in. If it is to succeed, we need to restore that grassroots involvement.”
Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester.

“I think Prevent in its current form has huge problems […] What I’ve asked for is a pause, an independent review, a look at what has worked and what hasn’t worked.”
Baroness Warsi, Conservative peer.

“Aspects of the programme are ineffective or being applied in an insensitive or discriminatory manner.”
David Anderson QC, former Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation.

“[There is] widespread concern that Muslims are singled out as potential extremists.”
The Muslim Council of Britain.

Join Liberty’s call for a thorough, independent review of Prevent and an overhaul of its flawed approach.

Liberty is calling for an independent review of Prevent and a fundamental change in our approach to preventing terrorism.

Only by openly confronting its rights and wrongs can we develop an approach to countering the threat of terrorism which commands public trust and support.

When the stakes are this high, the least the Government should do is check whether its approach is working – or making things worse.

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Statutory Prevent duty in schools and universities must be repealed

In addition to the broader Prevent strategy, in 2015 the Government pushed through legislation putting Prevent on a statutory footing in schools, universities, healthcare providers and other public bodies.

This means everyone from teachers and doctors to social workers now has a legal duty to search for and report ‘opposition to fundamental British values’ in a vague effort to identify signs of radicalisation.

Sadly, this has led to excessive scrutiny of black, Asian and minority ethnicchildren and a shutting down of debate.

Prevent risks worsening the problems it seeks to combat by discriminating against and alienating whole communities.

It spreads fear and forces teachers to view children with suspicion. This has inevitably led to a breakdown of trust and clumsy accusations.

It has also led to the curbing of free expression.

Some groups and student societies have felt pressure to cancel important events about issues such as Islamophobia because universities fear breaching their statutory duty.

This undermines the free and frank exchange of ideas in a place where ideas need to be stated in order to be openly and robustly challenged.

Instead, they risk being driven underground and insulated from those who seek to rebuke and debunk their destructive and flawed reasoning.

Join us in calling for a repeal of the statutory Prevent duty

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