tuesday, 30 june of 2015

Jails and universities obliged to prevent radicalisation as new act becomes law

Local authorities, prisons, NHS trusts, schools, universities and further education institutions will this week be placed under a new statutory duty to prevent extremist radicalisation taking place within their walls.

The requirement was imposed by this year’s Counter-Terrorism and Security Act, and Home Office ministers have pointed out that the wide-ranging powers come into force in the week that David Cameron demanded “a full spectrum response” to the killing of as many as 30 British tourists in Tunisia.

Cameron told MPs a form of perverted Islamist extremism had declared war on Britain and the nation was now locked in a generation-long existential struggle to defeat the ideology at its roots.

The scale of the new duties concerning public bodies are potentially vast and intrusive. Government inspectors will be charged with ensuring the required actions are taken.

Local councils will be required to make checks on the use of its public buildings, its internet filters and any unregulated out of school settings, including after-school clubs and groups, supplementary schools and tuition centres to support home education.

Prison governors will be expected to consider cell-sharing risk assessments and initial reception and induction interviews.

“Contact with prisons’ chaplaincy should take place, particularly for those whose initial assessments cause concern,” the guidance says.

“The chaplain’s initial assessment should seek to establish longevity and knowledge of faith and look for any indication that the prisoner endorses extremist ideology or supports terrorism.”

Any prisoner causing concern could be supported by moving them away from a negative influence or by providing them with mentoring from the relevant chaplain or placing them in religious classes.

Management actions could include a reduction in privilege level, anti-bullying intervention, adjudication or segregation. Alternatively, it may be appropriate to provide theological, motivational and behavioural interventions.

Schools are to be placed under a new duty of care to their pupils and staff. This includes safeguarding them from the risk of being drawn into terrorism, which includes non-violent extremism.

The guidance says schools should be safe spaces in which children and young people can understand and discuss sensitive topics, including terrorism and the extremist ideas that are part of the terrorist ideology, and learn how to challenge these ideas.

School governors and university vice-chancellors will have a new responsibility to ensure external speakers are appropriate and that fundamental British values are promoted in the delivery of the curriculum and extracurricular activities and reflected in the general conduct of the school.

In universities, all staff “should have sufficient training to be able to recognise vulnerability to being drawn into terrorism, and be aware of what action to take to take”. When external speakers visit, there should also be “sufficient notice of booking (generally at least 14 days) to allow for checks to be made and cancellation to take place if necessary”.

Advance notice of the content of the event, including an outline of the topics to be discussed and sight of any presentations, footage to be broadcast should be provided.

There should also be a guarantee of an opposing viewpoint in the discussion, or someone in the audience to monitor the event, and a mechanism for managing incidents or instances where off-campus events of concern are promoted on campus.

In identifying the dangers of Islamic extremism, the guidance suggests key figures should recognise that “Islamist extremists regard western intervention in Muslim-majority countries as a ‘war with Islam’, creating a narrative of ‘them’ and ‘us’.”

“Their ideology includes the uncompromising belief that people cannot be both Muslim and British, and that Muslims living here should not participate in our democracy,” the guidance adds.

“Islamist extremists specifically attack the principles of civic participation and social cohesion. These extremists purport to identify grievances to which terrorist organisations then claim to have a solution.”

(Published by The Guardian - June 29, 2015)

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