Deradicalisation programmes not working on jailed jihadists, watchdog warns

Counterterrorism expert says heavy supervision schemes needed alongside efforts to counter radical ideologies

Police and paramedics attend the scene following an attack on London Bridge in June 2017
Police and paramedics attend the scene following an attack on London Bridge in June 2017
(Image credit: Daniel Sorabji/AFP via Getty Images)

The public should be under “no illusion” that initiatives aimed at deradicalising jihadis in prison are getting results, the head of the UK terrorism watchdog has warned.

According to Jonathan Hall QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, many terrorists are “deceptive” and simply say what they think probation staff and other authorities want to hear.

Hall told The Times that there was no harm in offering programmes such as theological mentoring, but “said that it was essential to run them alongside heavy supervision regimes”. The counterterrorism expert is also backing government plans to make released terrorists undergo lie detector tests.

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Hall has spoken out as debate rages over how to deal with Britons seeking to return after joining Isis in Syria and Iraq, such as London schoolgirl Shamima Begum, who has been stripped of her British citizenship.

The UK’s official deradicalisation schemes include the Prevent programme, aimed at preventing individuals from being drawn into extremism, and the Channel programme, which is designed to divert extremists away from terrorism.

A “record number of extremists have been sent on the Channel programme in the past year, driven by surging numbers of far-right sympathisers”, the Daily Mail reports.

The project took on 697 new cases in the year to the end of March 2020 - up from 566 in the previous 12 months, and the highest annual tally since 2015. According to the Home Office, 302 of last year’s cases were “referred due to concerns regarding right-wing radicalisation”.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic has seen the number of suspected terrorists arrested in the UK fall to the lowest level in almost a decade. Official figures published last week show that in the year to October 2020, 215 arrests were made - down by 18% on the previous year.

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