Tuesday, 20 January 2015

A (disturbing) thought on the Counter-Terrorism Prevent Duty

The immediately preceding post looked at the Prevent Duty within the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill which is now racing through Parliament with minimal opposition.  The Institute of Race Relations has published an article examining the Bill - Farewell Magna Carta: The Counter-terrorism and Security Bill.

An acquaintance recently drew my attention to an homework question set for a 13 year old.  The topic was

"The holocaust was caused by religion, discuss."

At the time I recall thinking that it was an interesting question relating to relatively recent history. 
A good answer to it would take a considerable amount of time to prepare but, of course, a 13 year old is not expected to do a degree-style presentation!  Nevertheless, it would be necessary to at least touch upon matters such as - what was the holocaust; how did the holocaust come about; what is religion and is it actually definable; what is racism; how did economic problems of the 1920s and 30s assist the rise to power of Hitler; why did the Nazis single out for hatred Jewish people and various other human beings (Victims of Nazism); whether the Treaty of Versailles created conditions enabling the rise of Nazism and so on. 

Since considering more carefully the Prevent Duty in Part 5 Chapter 1 of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill a more disturbing thought occurred.  Perhaps I am wrong about this and would actually like to be wrong but one must wonder!  There will be many answers to an essay topic such as this and it might just be that a teacher takes exception to something a child writes if not in that essay but maybe some other topic.  The outcome might then be, because of diligent adherence within the school (a "specified authority") to the Prevent Duty, the child is reported ("referred") as being at risk of being "drawn into terrorism."  If that were to happen then the Secretary of State's guidance would kick in.  This guidance, as things stand, will not even require the approval of Parliament.  Schools will, of course, have to be be diligent because of the enforcement powers within the Bill - see, in particular, Clause 25 of the Bill.

Para 110 of the draft guidance document states:

"Institutions will need to demonstrate that they are protecting children and young people
from being drawn into terrorism by having robust safeguarding policies in place to identify
children at risk, and intervening as appropriate (by referring pupils to Channel or Children’s
Social Care, for example
). These policies should set out clear protocols for ensuring that
any visiting speakers – whether invited by staff or by pupils themselves – are suitable and
appropriately supervised within school."  [My emphasis].

Para 113 - Staff Training - states:

"Senior management and governors should make sure that staff have training that gives
them the knowledge and confidence to identify children at risk of being drawn into terrorism
and challenge extremist ideas which can be used to legitimise terrorism and are shared by
terrorist groups. They should know where and how to refer children and young people for
further help.  Prevent awareness training will be a key part of this."

So we now have a child identified as at risk and he or she gets referred to Social Care.  What might then happen?  Might it just be that the child is found to be at risk of significant harm so that Care Proceedings under the Children Act 1989 are instituted?  "Harm", for the purposes of the Act, can include impairment of social or behavioural development.

Maybe all my concern is far-fetched and I am sure that the reader will form his or her own view!  Please comment - particularly if you think I am in error in some way.  Meanwhile - kids everywhere must get on with their  homework !!

Addendum 21st January:

The Institute of Race relations article (link in the post above) comments  ...

"Would young children’s expression of faith be justification for nursery staff to warn police, or for social services to remove children from overly pious homes? These fears are not fanciful. Since the start of the Channel programme (on a voluntary basis) in 2007, 1,400 children, including 153 under-11s, had been referred for anti-extremism programming, out of a total of 3,600. The referrals were overwhelmingly of Muslims."

The link in the last paragraph is to A Decade Lost: Rethinking Radicalisation and Extremism - - Professor Arun Kundnani January 2015.  .The document is highly critical of the existing (voluntary) Protect strategy.

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