A Jewish peer has been appointed as the Government’s independent reviewer of the Prevent strategy, which has been attacked by critics as disproportionately targeting Muslims.
The Home Office appointed Lord Carlile to review the most controversial strand of its counter-terrorism strategy, in part because he spent a decade as the Government’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation.
The appointment did not meet with universal acclaim. Former Conservative chair Baroness Sayeeda Warsi tweeted that Lord Carlile did not have the “trust of the communities that have been on the receiving end of the excesses and mistakes of Prevent”.
The Prevent programme was created under David Cameron’s premiership and is designed to safeguard vulnerable people from being drawn into terrorism.
Under its supporting legislation, staff at schools, universities and other public institutions must report those they suspect of being vulnerable to extremism, which is described as “vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values”.
But some critics say the programme discriminates against certain ethnic minority groups, while others say its effect on free speech is its biggest danger. The Home Office promised an independent review in January this year.
Former Lib Dem peer Carlile, who resigned from the party in 2017, is a QC who once defended Princess Diana’s former butler Paul Burrell. He reviewed the UK’s terrorism legislation from 2001 to 2011, and led a 2006 inquiry into physical restraint, solitary confinement and forcible strip-searching of children in prisons.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said Carlile’s appointment demonstrated the Home Office’s “commitment to ensuring that our strategy for supporting people vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism is as effective as possible in the future”.
Carlile said: “The nature of the terrorist threat is ever-changing and government policy must evolve in order to tackle it.” He said he would listen to “supporters, critics and everyone in between,” adding: “The review will be strongly evidence based.”
Liam Duffy, a research fellow at the think-tank Civitas, who specialises in extremism, said: “Lord Carlile’s appointment can be measured in who it has riled up. Those who have made it their raison d’etre to attack and undermine counter-terrorism and counter-extremism work were of course incandescent.”