Schools and prisons to take on counter-terrorism duties

Theresa May
Theresa May

Schools, universities, prisons, local authorities and NHS Scotland are among bodies who will face a statutory obligation to prevent radicalisation within their walls from tomorrow.

The provisions of the UK government’s Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 come into force from 1 July, placing a “general duty” upon a range of bodies to “prevent people being drawn into terrorism”.

Speaking in February, Home Secretary Theresa May said: “From 1 July the new statutory Prevent duty for specified authorities will commence.

“Once this has been fully implemented it will require local authorities, the police, prisons, probation services, schools, colleges – and yes, universities too – to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.

“This will ensure that Prevent activity is consistent across the country and in all those bodies that work with those who may be vulnerable.”

She added that the newly revised Prevent strategy “tackles the ideology behind the threat, and tackles all forms of terrorism, not just Islamist-related terrorism”.

Schools will be placed under a new duty of care to their pupils and staff, and school governors and university vice-chancellors will have to ensure external speakers are appropriate and “British values” are promoted through the curriculum.

A primary goal of the legislation is to challenge extremism, which government guidance defines as “vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs” as well as calling for the death of British soldiers.

Universities are described in the guidance as “one of our most important arenas for challenging extremist views and ideologies” where extremism can be challenged through “necessary staff training, IT policies and student welfare programmes”.

The guidance says “consideration should be given to the use of as part of the university strategy to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”.

Local authorities are also encouraged to look into web filters as part of efforts to “ensure that publicly-owned venues and resources do not provide a platform for extremists and are not used to disseminate extremist views”.

Prison governors will be expected to conduct “an initial interview and assessment” with new inmates.

Prisoners who “might be at risk from being drawn into any form of extremist ideology or terrorism” will come under scrutiny from the prison’s Intelligence Management Unit to look for “any indication that the prisoner endorses extremist ideology or supports terrorism”.

The guidance then suggests “a raft of intervention measures” including mentoring or “theological, motivational and behavioural interventions”.

It adds: “In some cases additional management actions may be required and could include moving the individual away from those he or she is seeking to influence including separation from the wider prison regime.”

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