LONDON: There is no evidence that a core section of the UK’s de-radicalization program for prisoners and convicted terrorists works, the country’s terror watchdog has said.
Jonathan Hall QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, said in his report that the program is struggling with “disruptive behaviour or deliberate disengagement” by attendees.
Criticism has been directed at the desistance and disengagement program that was attended by Usman Khan, who carried out an attack in central London while he was released on license.
“Disruptive behaviour or deliberate disengagement during mentoring (both practical and theological) is, I am informed, a significant problem,” Hall said in his annual report.
“The more extreme examples include pretending to sleep, wearing headphones or taking long toilet breaks.”
The program was established for released terrorist offenders in 2016 and extended into prisons two years later.
Hall warned that some children repatriated from recaptured Daesh territory could pose a national security threat.
“The fact that many children are brutalized 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,” he wrote.
Hall reiterated that the British government has previously said it is willing “to repatriate unaccompanied UK minors or orphans where there is no risk to UK security,” 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 criticized the government’s floated policy of criminalizing possession of terrorist propaganda as “unworkable,” as it would create too many new offenders.
Philip Ingram, a former senior British military intelligence officer, told Arab News: “The trouble with the de-radicalization programs in prison is that there’s a reluctance to recognize that some people can’t and will never be de-radicalized.”
He said Britain’s counter-extremism strategy broadly works well, and in the majority of cases it intercepts people before they become totally radicalized.
But he warned: “Once some individuals have been radicalized to an extent where they carry out attacks, it’s often too late to intervene. This is nothing new and not limited to Islamist extremism: There are countless cases of Irish terrorists — both republican and loyalist — who went straight back to terrorism on release from prison.”