The voices against PREVENT are coming from diverse areas which have been impacted. Late last month, Derek Summerfield, a consultant at the South London and Maudsley hospital and an honorary senior lecturer at London’s Institute of Psychiatry made the following observation about PREVENT and its social interplay:
“This is a corrosion of the ethics of the doctor-patient relationship, and is to prime us for an activity which is a duplicitous deviation from the medical assessment, advice and treatment that has brought the patient to us… It is basically a form of spying and of scapegoating, and essentially about Muslim patients.“
Once trusted and confidential relationships have been overturned.
Arguably, the most adversely affected by PREVENT is the education sector. According to a BBC report, thirty doctors, solicitors, teachers and other, mainly Muslim professionals, attended a seminar organised by Prevent Watch to discuss and discern the negative consequences resulting from the implementation of the PREVENT duty.
“Knowing Too Much about the Middle East”
Among the various PREVENT-related child abuse stories, one brought to light was a case in Greater Manchester. The father in the BBC report relates how the school used two “indicators” to refer the child under PREVENT. The first was that the school thought that the child’s knowledge of the Middle East was “quite extensive” for a twelve year-old. The second was an incident which was deemed as an “indicator”. The school went on a trip to France shortly after the Charlie Hebdo attacks. The father relates that the child asked where the Charlie Hebdo offices were. This was enough for the school to refer the child.
Although the report does not delve into the impact on the child as a result of such a referral, the potential impact on the psychological development of the twelve year old is disconcerting. Will such a child open up and discuss his pressing concerns or become a mental recluse and resort to damaging self-censorship? A further case reported yesterday does highlight the impact on the child.
An eight-year-old from Wirral was deemed by his school to be in danger of radicalisation when he said he “wanted to fight terrorists”. The parents described the “ordeal” as very distressing, with the child being “shocked” and confused by the school’s reaction. It is also worth noting that a non-Muslim parent affected by PREVENT has described the reaction of the school as “idiotic”.
The treatment of children and distress to the parents is frankly outrageous.
Beyond Dangerous, Plain Unlawful
And indeed this is a sentiment shared by one of the most respected lawyers in the country. Quoted in the BBC report from the Prevent Watch event was solicitor and human rights activist, Gareth Pierce. Slamming the practical application of PREVENT, she said,
“Police officers blundering into schools, into homes, with or without social workers, without parents knowing, just simply saying they’re from Prevent and we need to ask you some questions, and interrogating very young children, that’s beyond dangerous, that plain unlawful.”
Another high-profile solicitor who represented the Lawrence family in the Stephen Lawrence case, Imran Khan, called for people to come forward and challenge PREVENT:
“If you have been treated badly as a result of the PREVENT strategy, then come forward because we need you to challenge what’s happening. Until people put their heads above the parapet like the Lawrence’s did, we are not going to get change.”
Indeed, publically airing the concerns will be the only way to expose the abuse resulting from the secretive PREVENT Strategy. David Anderson QC brought attention to the opaque nature of PREVENT stating that “nobody really knows” whether PREVENT is working as “most things about PREVENT are classified”. He has (once again) called for an independent review.
PREVENT is self-destructive. Its own enemy. When the diagnosis is wrong, the prognosis will be misleading, ineffective and result in unintended consequences, which may prove highly detrimental. Perhaps the worst element of this farcical policy is that the most vulnerable – children, medically/psychiatrically ill – are the ones suffering. How many more children will need to be interrogated, “shocked” and psychologically harmed? How many more voices uttering common sense will be needed? And how much more discrimination, fear and self-censorship will need to be experienced before PREVENT is scrapped root and branch?