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Scope of the Prevent duty

17 February 2020

Colleges will have seen the recent media coverage of Counter Terrorism Policing guidance that mentioned groups such as Extinction Rebellion. Security Minister, Brandon Lewis, has responded by saying: “The Counter-Terrorism Policing South East document which listed the protest group Extinction Rebellion alongside extremist groups was an error of judgement and I welcome the fact that this has been recalled by the police. Another was the “signs and symbols” document which the police designed to help police officers identify what is and is not lawful that they might see in their day-to-day work. I know the inclusion of protest groups in documents like these without context can be concerning, which is why I welcome the police’s quick response in clarifying their position. Some coverage has claimed that both sets of materials were drafted and issued as part of the Prevent programme. This is untrue. As we and the police have said, protest groups are absolutely not considered to be extremist groups. Membership or support of such groups does not mean that a person is considered a threat by us or by the police. It certainly does not mean that people who are part of these groups should be referred to Prevent. The Prevent programme is about safeguarding and protecting individuals to protect them from becoming terrorists. Prevent is there to protect people from radicalisation and involvement in terrorist groups, such as proscribed organisations like National Action and Al-Muhajiroun, who deliberately incite violence and hatred. Prevent is certainly not concerned with protesters who want to bring about change through peaceful protest. Even non-violent civil disobedience, which may constitute criminal behaviour, is of no interest to Prevent. The right to free speech and protest are cornerstones of our democracy, which I and this Government are committed to protecting. The Prevent strategy in no way, shape or form undermines this commitment.” The guidance therefore does not change the requirements of the Prevent duty in any way and colleges do not need to modify their procedures in response. If you have any questions relating to the Prevent duty, please contact your local authority Prevent lead or your regional HE/FE Prevent co-ordinator. Eddie Playfair at AoC is also happy to advise.