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The Independent

Residence Workplace accused of ‘interference’ in delayed evaluation of Stop counterterror scheme

The Home Office has been accused of “interfering” with an impartial evaluation of the Prevent counterterror scheme after paperwork revealed quite a few conferences and calls for for adjustments to the report.

The reviewer, the previous chairman of the Charity Fee William Shawcross, handed his findings to the federal government final April however they’ve nonetheless not been printed, 4 years after the probe was commissioned.

Freedom of Info (FOI) requests by campaigners present that Mr Shawcross and the evaluation staff met with the previous residence secretary Priti Patel, different ministers and Residence Workplace officers 13 occasions between February 2021 and August 2022 – together with on 5 events after the report was drafted.

Paperwork obtained by the charity Rights & Safety Worldwide (RSI) additionally revealed emails from July discussing “authorized points” that the Residence Workplace mentioned wanted to be resolved earlier than the report was printed.

Communications between the federal government and evaluation staff confirmed that Mr Shawcross would reply to Residence Workplace “feedback and requests” and potential amendments.

An electronic mail from an unknown sender on 13 April mentioned: “The house secretary [then Priti Patel] is worried by the delay to the evaluation and is beginning to come beneath vital stress from the Residence Affairs committee, amongst others. She requested to see the draft as quickly as doable.”

Solely a small variety of emails had been disclosed beneath FOI, with names, job titles and departments redacted as a result of the Residence Workplace claimed full disclosure would “compromise the well being and security of key officers, thereby prejudicing the UK’s nationwide safety targets”.

RSI is contemplating launching authorized motion over the obvious “interference”, which it argues would undermine the evaluation’s independence and thwart its targets.

It was arrange by Theresa Could’s authorities in 2019, following years of accusations that Stop stigmatised Muslims, and {that a} widened obligation to report suspected extremism was stifling free speech in faculties and universities.

RSI has demanded data on why the Residence Workplace was given a draft copy of the report, the character of amendments and the themes raised throughout conferences.

The Impartial understands that Ms Patel’s successor Suella Braverman and the communities secretary Michael Gove have subsequently had enter on the evaluation, as a result of they now head the departments with accountability for the Stop scheme.

RSI mentioned it has “severe issues concerning the lawfulness” of the Stop evaluation, which was initially meant to be printed by December 2021.

Sarah St Vincent, the charity’s govt director, mentioned: “Parliament, by regulation, required an impartial evaluation of Stop. An impartial evaluation must be impartial.

“If the federal government has formed the content material, then the evaluation isn’t impartial, and the general public and parliament shouldn’t be informed that it’s.”

Carolin Ott, a solicitor from Leigh Day representing RSI, mentioned that the group “considers that the character of the interactions between the house secretary and the impartial reviewer might compromise the evaluation’s ‘independence’” and means it doesn’t meet the circumstances set by parliament.

Priti Patel was residence secretary when a number of conferences occurred between ministers and people conducting the evaluation into Stop

(PA Wire)

They had been set out within the Counter-Terrorism and Border Safety Act 2019, which said: “The secretary of state should make preparations for an impartial evaluation and report on the federal government technique for supporting individuals susceptible to being drawn into terrorism.”

RSI beforehand introduced authorized motion that resulted within the departure of the primary reviewer appointed, Lord Carlile, after allegations concerning a scarcity of independence.

The appointment of Mr Shawcross as his successor in 2021 sparked a boycott by charities over comments when he referred to as “Europe and Islam one of many best, most terrifying issues of our future”.

Components of Mr Shawcross’s draft report have already been leaked to the press, sparking controversy with requires an intensified concentrate on Islamist extremism regardless of years of rising threats from the far proper and different ideologies.

A authorized letter from RSI to the Residence Workplace mentioned the leaked conclusions “appeared to help the secretary of state’s agenda in relation to Stop and occurred shortly after what seems to be intervention by the Residence Workplace within the substance of the report”.

“A key goal of the impartial evaluation has been to revive belief and confidence within the Stop technique,” the letter added. “It’s important for the evaluation to be thought to be impartial so its conclusions shall be accepted.”

For the reason that evaluation was introduced, the proportion of Stop referrals referring to suspected far-right extremism has overtaken these for Islamist extremism, and greater than half are actually within the “combined, unstable or unclear ideology” class.

It contains individuals, typically youngsters and people with psychological well being points and studying difficulties, who look like switching between totally different ideologies or are obsessive about mass violence or college massacres.

Within the 12 months to March 2021, the general public referred to Stop had been signposted to different public companies, corresponding to psychological well being and training, whereas a fifth noticed no additional motion and the rest had been thought of for ideological mentoring beneath the Channel programme.

A Residence Workplace spokesperson mentioned: “The Residence Workplace has obtained a letter concerning Rights and Safety Worldwide’s issues surrounding the lawfulness of the Impartial Evaluate of Stop, following an FOI request.

“These issues are unwarranted and we shall be responding on to this letter in the end.”

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