Schools refer thousands to Government's anti-terror programme

9 November 2017, 11:17

Thousands of children and teenagers have been referred to the Government's anti-terror programme, official figures have revealed.

Schools, colleges and other educational institutions made 2,539 referrals to Prevent in 2015/16 - more than the police.

Local authorities referred 812 people to the programme, and 267 referrals over the 12-month period came from friends and family.

This is the first time that the Home Office has published detailed statistics on the initiative, and its figures show more than 2,000 of those referred to Prevent were under the age of 15.

They included a nine-year-old boy from west London who stood up in class and said he supported IS after watching execution videos following the Paris attacks.

He was referred to Prevent when he was 10, and has since turned his life around.

Young people deemed especially vulnerable to exploitation and grooming are passed on to experts within the police, local government and other organisations.

They are then encouraged to take part in the voluntary Channel scheme, which is tasked with diverting them away from violence and terrorism.

Security minister Ben Wallace told Sky News: "The current terrorist threat uses the internet to groom people and seduce people into violence. Younger people live their whole life online and that's why you're seeing it there.

"What these early figures show is that over 350 people who were really potentially dangerous attackers, either from the far right or Islamist terrorist groups, have been diverted away from violence and potentially therefore not being a risk to you and me on the street."

An older referral to the scheme was a 47-year old man who had been an active member of far-right groups and was an "avid collector" of Nazi memorabilia and literature. He said he would likely be in prison if it had not been for the help he received from Prevent.

Prevent's national policing lead, Simon Cole, said: "Partners in the police and other public sectors are getting better at identifying appropriate referrals.

"But if we are to successfully stop vulnerable people from being drawn into violent extremism, then family members, friends and community leaders must come forward sooner to us with their concerns.

"As we have seen, catastrophic damage and suffering can be wreaked when radicalisation is given the chance to infect the vulnerable."

More up-to-date statistics published by the police earlier this year suggested the number of tip-offs had jumped following a series of terror attacks in the UK - including the Manchester bombing, attacks on Westminster and London Bridge, and outside Finsbury Park Mosque in north London.

Last month, MI5 director general Andrew Parker said the scale of the terror threat facing the UK was "at a scale and pace we've not seen before".

He added: "Today there is more terrorist activity, coming at us more quickly, and it can be harder to detect."