The ‘science’ of pre-crime: The secret ‘radicalisation’ study underpinning PREVENT

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In July 2015, the UK government introduced a statutory duty on all public sector workers to spot the signs of ‘radicalisation’ in order to stop their charges being ‘drawn into terrorism’. The government uses a system of 22 factors that has been developed to train these public sector employees in spotting signs of vulnerability.

This CAGE report, details for the first time how the government produced these factors in secret, and subsequently relied on an evidence base that was not only unproven, but extended far beyond its original remit. Key among our findings, is the admission by those who wrote the study, that they did not factor political grievance into the modelling, a fact they say was, “perhaps an omission”. Further, the government’s study states that only trained professionals should be using these factors, and yet they have been rolled out nationally under a statutory duty imposed under the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 – ultimately being used in what they term the pre-crime space.

Reviewed by 18 academics this is one of CAGE’s most robust reports that have critiqued and shed light on the government’s counter extremism strategy.

Over 140 academics signed a joint letter criticising the ‘science’ underlying the government’s ‘radicalisation’ policy. They also called for the publication of the classified ERG22+ study, which underpins the entire PREVENT agenda.

“This report raises far-reaching questions about evidence base and credibility of the government’s counter terrorism strategy and specifically the idea that ‘signs’ of ‘extremism’ can be listed and categorised.” Professor David Miller.

“You are to be greatly commended for the watchdog role you are currently playing in rigorously scrutinising and critiquing these dubious and harmful practices by the British government. I am glad you are able to put the time, effort and expertise into such an important role.” Professor Richard Jackson, editor-in-chief of the journal Critical Studies on Terrorism.

“This report raises important questions for psychologists. Most importantly, we are reminded that our psychological research can be used for purposes that it was not designed for; and that this can cause great harm.” Dr Leeda Blackwood.


NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.