UK – No evidence terrorist re-education scheme works

A deradicalisation programme for prisoners and convicted terrorists is riven with disruptive behaviour or deliberate disengagement by those attending, the terror watchdog has warned.

Jonathan Hall, QC, said there was no evidence that the desistance and disengagement programme, which was attended by Usman Khan, 28, who carried out an attack at London Bridge after release from prison, was working.

Hall, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, said in his annual report: Disruptive behaviour or deliberate disengagement during mentoring (both practical and theological) is, I am informed, a significant problem. The more extreme examples include pretending to sleep, wearing headphones or taking long toilet breaks.

The programme was established for released terrorist offenders in 2016 and extended into prisons two years later. Hall said that no one knew whether it was effective as there had not been a systematic evaluation.

In a wide-ranging report, he warned that children brought back from the Islamic State warzone could still pose a threat to the public.

He wrote: The fact that many children are brutalised victims and require rehabilitation does not mean that they do not present terrorist risk on return and may not have been trained specifically to carry out terrorist acts.

The government has said that it is willing to repatriate unaccompanied UK minors or orphans where there is no risk to UK security, Hall said, but added: This poses the question of how to address that risk, either overseas or back home. So far, all children brought back have been under ten years of age.

Since matters are rarely absolute, and intelligence often incomplete, no assessment can exclude the possibility that a child may be drawn into violence as a result of experiences overseas.

He said an offence of possession of terrorist propaganda, being considered by the government, was unworkable as it would create too many new offenders. In a written ministerial statement, Priti Patel, the home secretary, thanked Hall for the report. I will consider its contents and the recommendations he makes and will respond in due course.
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