Prevent faces shake-up in wake of David Amess murderApril 13, 2022
Prevent faces shake-up in wake of David Amess murder: Councils could be stripped of powers and Channel panels slimmed down as MP says anti-terror scheme needs to focus on greater Islamist threat
- William Shawcross, former chairman of the Charity Commission, leading a long-awaited review into Prevent
- Six of 11 most significant recent terror attacks were carried out by individuals who have gone through Prevent
- Shawcross review expected to call for new network of anti-terror professionals free from local council control
Councils could be stripped of responsibility for the government’s flagship anti-terror programme and decision making panels slimmed down after it failed to stop a string of attacks including the murder of Sir David Amess.
William Shawcross, a former chairman of the Charity Commission who is leading a long-awaited review into Prevent, is expected to call for a new network of anti-terror professionals free from council control.
Sir David’s killer Ali Harbi Ali – who was today sentenced to a whole life order – had been referred to the programme in 2014 but a year later it was concluded he no longer posed a threat.
Six of the 11 most significant recent terror attacks were carried out by individuals who have gone through Prevent.
The scheme works by local council-appointed Prevent coordinators taking referrals from public servants like teachers and social workers, with each individual of concern categorised by their ideology.
Less serious cases are dealt with by councils, who can offer services like mentoring or parenting support, while the more serious ones go to the Channel phase, where a panel of local officials, including police, will recommend the next steps.
Sir David’s killer Ali Harbi Ali – who was today sentenced to a whole life order – had been referred to the programme in 2014 but a year later it was concluded he no longer posed a threat
SOUTHEND – October 15, 2021: Tory MP Sir David Amess was fatally stabbed outside Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea near Southend while attending a constituency surgery. Ali Harbi Ali, 26, was referred to Prevent seven years ago.
READING – June 20, 2020: Khairi Saadallah, 27, fatally stabbed friends James Furlong, 36, Dr David Wails, 49, and Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, 39, in a knife attack at a town centre park. He later admitted the murders and was sentenced to a whole life order in prison. The Reading Refugee Support Group warned Prevent officials he could carry out a ‘London Bridge-style attack’. However, he was found to not have a ‘fixed ideology, the Independent reported.
STREATHAM – February 2, 2020: Sudesh Amman was shot dead by police after stabbing two people on a busy street in the south London area of Streatham while wearing a fake suicide vest. He was referred to Prevent but the panel decided his case did not require intervention.
LONDON BRIDGE – November 29, 2019: Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, were stabbed to death by Usman Khan, 28, at a prisoner rehabilitation event. A man and two women were also injured before Khan, who was released from prison on licence in December 2018, was shot dead by armed officers on the bridge. An inquest heard his Prevent officers had ‘no specific training’ in handling terrorists.
PARSONS GREEN – September 15, 2017: Ahmed Hassan’s homemade bomb partially exploded on a London Underground rush hour train, injuring more than 50 people. He was sentenced to life with a minimum jail term of 34 years. He was referred to Prevent 20 months before he planted the bomb.
Critics point out that many officials involved in Prevent do not have specific anti-terror experience, while there are also concerns about the ‘politically correct’ focus on right-wing terror rather than its more deadly Islamist equivalent.
Former Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick was among those calling for ‘urgent’ reform today.
‘Islamist extremists make up three quarters of offenders in prison for terror-related crime but only 24 per cent of all Prevent referrals and 30 per cent of Channel cases, that is those taken to the next level of intervention,’ he wrote in the Telegraph.
‘If Prevent is to succeed it must be focused on the greatest risk to life, without fear of appearances. It cannot afford to be passive and it needs to place the police and the security services in the driving seat.’
William Shawcross is said to agree that a more different approach is needed, according to a source with knowledge of his review.
‘He is going for a more professionalised approach where the Prevent leads around the country will be nationally selected and possibly nationally paid. Their primary objective will be a national security role.’
Mr Shawcross is also expected to call for unwieldy Channel panels, which can number as many as 20 people, to be reduced to a maximum of five, it is claimed.
Ali, a 26-year-old Londoner, radicalised himself by consuming extremist material online before he fatally stabbed Conservative MP Sir David.
The Met said Ali ‘spent some time’ in Prevent before coming out of it ‘by his own admission’.
He is the latest of a series of Islamist terrorists in recent years to have been referred to the government’s flagship anti-terror programme only to go on to carry out an attack.
Khairi Saadallah, 27, fatally stabbed friends James Furlong, 36, Dr David Wails, 49, and Joseph Ritchie-Bennett, 39, in a Reading park in June 2020.
Prevent officials were warned he could carry out a ‘London Bridge-style attack’, but he was assessed and found to have ‘no fixed ideology’, the Independent reported.
Another terrorist referred to Prevent was Sudesh Amman, who stabbed two people in Streatham, south London, in February 2019. However, a panel decided his case did not require intervention.
Reading attacker Khairi Saadallah, 27, (left) was assessed by Prevent officials but found to have ‘no fixed ideology’, according to reports. Sudesh Amman, who stabbed two people in Streatham, south London, last February. However, a panel decided his case did not require intervention
Usman Khan, 28, (left) who stabbed two young graduates to death after a prisoner rehabilitation event on London Bridge, had come into contact with Prevent officers who had ‘no specific training’ in handling terrorists, an inquest heard. Parsons Green bomber Ahmed Hassan was also referred to the anti-terror scheme 20 months before he planted a device on the Tube that injured 50 people during rush hour in 2017
The UK’s flagship anti-terror strategy is being undermined by a politically correct emphasis on right-wing extremism over more dangerous Islamist radicalism, critics have said – as a review prepares to overhaul the ‘broken’ system
Usman Khan, 28, who stabbed two young graduates to death after a prisoner rehabilitation event on London Bridge, had come into contact with Prevent officers who had ‘no specific training’ in handling terrorists, an inquest heard.
Parsons Green bomber Ahmed Hassan was also referred to the anti-terror scheme 20 months before he planted a device on the Tube that injured 50 people during rush hour in 2017.
Former Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick was among those calling for ‘urgent’ reform today
Following his conviction, Detective Chief Superintendent Dominic Murphy, said Ali had been involved with the Prevent deradicalisation programme in 2014.
He said: ‘By Ali’s own admission, and through our thorough investigation, we’ve identified that Ali was subject to Prevent in 2014.
‘He spent some time in Prevent and then came out of Prevent and by his own admission, carried on his activity in secret over many years, forming his plan and conducting reconnaissance and focusing his efforts on many MPs.
‘We say he was the true example of a committed terrorist and exactly the type of people that we should be focusing our efforts on.’
Mr Murphy said Ali did not engage with anyone else as part of the plot and conducted the attack entirely alone.
‘By his own admission, he spent an awful lot of time on the internet as part of his radicalisation journey and his research into conducting this attack,’ he said.
Mr Murphy, from the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command, declined to speculate on whether there were any missed opportunities to stop Ali.
He said the issue would be examined in more depth at any future inquest into the death Sir David.
Timeline: Terrorist spent years scoping out targets before brutally murdering Sir David Amess and bought a knife from Argos
Here are the key events leading up to the murder of Sir David Amess:
2014: Ali Harbi Ali considers travelling to Syria to join Islamic State but does not go.
2016: Around this time Ali buys a 12-in knife from Argos, which he used to kill Sir David.
2017: He decides to carry out an attack in the United Kingdom.
From May 2019: Ali notes down an MP’s home address and an attack plan, and saves it on his mobile phone.
2020: The terror plan is disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
March to July 2021: Ali stakes out the west London home address of Government Minister Michael Gove six times.
Ali captured on CCTV walking around the gates of the Houses of Parliament on September 22 last year – around a month before the fatal stabbing of Sir David Amess in Essex
July to September: He visits the House of Parliament six times.
September 17: Ali carries out more hostile reconnaissance outside Mike Freer MP’s constituency surgery in Finchley, north London.
September 27: Ali finds out about Sir David’s constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex and emails to make an appointment claiming to be moving to the area. Following an email exchange with aide Rebecca Hayton, an appointment is fixed for noon on October 15.
October 15: At 8.40am, Ali sets off from his home in Kentish Town. He travels by foot and train to Gospel Oak Station and Barking, arriving at Leigh-On-Sea at 10.22am.
At 10am Sir David Amess begins his constituency surgery at the Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea. He is accompanied by two staff, Ms Hayton and Julie Cushion.
Between 10.28am and 11.50am, Ali is captured on CCTV walking around Leigh-on-Sea, arriving at the church shortly before noon.
Just after 12noon, Ms Hayton escorts Ali to meet the MP in a vestry office.
Ali tells Sir David he wants to talk about foreign affairs before stabbing him 21 times. Shortly before or after Ali sends a WhatsApp message to friends and family explaining his attack ‘in the name of Allah’.
At 12.07pm, Essex Police receive a report of the incident from Ms Cushion.
Ali walking along Whitehall, (left) and near to Portcullis House (right) on CCTV footage released by police
At 12.13pm, Constituent Yvonne Eaves calls 999 and describes how she and partner Darren King were being threatened by Ali.
While Ms Eaves is on the phone, Pc Scott James and Pc Ryan Curtis, who are armed with batons, arrive at the church and apprehend 26-year-old Ali, who drops the 12-inch long carving knife.
At 1.10pm, Sir David is pronounced dead.
October 18: Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces Southend will be granted city status.
– Lady Julia Amess makes an emotional visit the church in Leigh-on-Sea.
October 21: Ali Harbi Ali, from Kentish Town, London, is charged with murder.
October 22: The defendant appears at the Old Bailey by video-link from high-security Belmarsh prison.
– MPs are offered a security guard for constituency surgeries following a review into their safety.
October 27: An inquest into the death of Sir David is opened and adjourned.
November 15: The UK’s terrorism threat level is raised after two attacks in a month.
November 22: A private funeral takes place for Sir David in Southend-on-Sea, Essex.
November 23: The Pope praises Sir David’s years of ‘devoted public service’ in a message read at a Westminster Cathedral service.
December 21: Ali appears at the Old Bailey for a plea hearing charged with murder and preparation of terrorist acts.
March 2022: Ali goes on trial accused of preparing terrorist acts and murder.
April 11 2022: A jury deliberated for just 18 minutes to find Ali guilty of murder and preparing for terrorist acts.
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