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CONTEST is the United Kingdom's counter-terrorism strategy.[1] It was first developed by the Home Office in early 2003,[2] and a revised version was made publicly available in 2006. Further revisions were published on 24 March 2009,[3] 11 July 2011 and, most recently, in June 2018.[4] An Annual Report on the implementation of CONTEST was released in March 2010 and, most recently, in April 2014. The aim of the strategy is "to reduce the risk to the UK and its interests overseas from terrorism, so that people can go about their lives freely and with confidence."[5][6]

CONTEST is split into four work-streams that are known within the counter-terrorism community as the 'four P's': Prevent, Pursue, Protect, and Prepare. The 'Prevent' strategy has provoked notable controversy.

The Four P's[edit]


The purpose of Prevent is to stop people from becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism. This includes countering terrorist ideology and challenging those who promote it, supporting individuals who are especially vulnerable to becoming radicalized, and working with sectors and institutions where the risk of radicalization is assessed to be high.[7] The deradicalisation programme is known as Channel. It is led by the police and liberal Muslim mentors who do not espouse any anti-Western violence.[8]

As of February 2015, all NHS staff are required to undergo basic Prevent awareness training[9] and schools have a statutory duty to have due regard in the prevention of terrorism. This 'duty' does not extend to teachers, but enables schools to embed safeguard measures against radicalisation within their standard safeguarding policies.[10]

The leader of the 2017 London Bridge attack and his brother were involved with Prevent.[11]

The perpetrator of the Parsons Green train bombing had been referred to Prevent.[12][13][14]


The purpose of Pursue is to stop terrorist attacks by detecting, prosecuting and otherwise disrupting those who plot to carry out attacks against the UK or its interests overseas.[7]


The purpose of Protect is to strengthen protection against a terrorist attack in the UK or its interests overseas and thus reducing their vulnerability. The work focuses on border security, the transport system, national infrastructure and public places. The process works by first recognising the threats and then identifying the measures to [7] reduce risks.


The purpose of Prepare is to mitigate the impact of a terrorist attack in an event whereby that attack cannot be stopped. This includes bringing a terrorist attack to an end and increasing the UK's resilience so the country can recover quickly in its aftermath.[7]

Revised version of CONTEST[edit]

The August 2018 strategy reportedly puts more focus on ways of prevention and how to best alert the public to terrorist threats.[15] In an article written for The Observerformer UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown stated that the strategy is "recognized by our allies to be world-leading in its wide-ranging nature, [and] leaves us better prepared and strengthened in our ability to ensure all peace-loving people of this country can live normally, with confidence and free from fear."[16]


The 'Prevent' strategy was criticised in 2009 by Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, a domestic spying programme collecting intelligence about the beliefs of British Muslims not involved in criminal activity.[17] The Communities and Local Government Committee was also critical of the Prevent programme in 2010, stating that it stigmatised and alienated Muslims the government wanted to work with.[18]

Prevent has been criticised as legitimising and reinforcing Islamophobia, and restricting freedom of expression for Muslims in the UK.[19][20]

At the National Union of Teachers' 2016 conference in Brighton, the union members voted overwhelmingly against the Prevent strategy and supported its abolition, citing concerns over the implementation of the strategy and causing "suspicion in the classroom and confusion in the staffroom".[21]

In June 2016, the MPs Lucy Allan and Norman Lamb introduced a private member's bill to repeal provisions in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 where it requires a staff to report possible signs of extremism or radicalisation amongst primary and nursery school aged children, following a number of high-profile cases where the provision was inappropriately used in relation to the Prevent strategy. The Bill did not become law.[22]

In 2017, two brothers, aged seven and five, were paid damages after they were reported to the Prevent programme after telling a teacher they had been given toy guns. The children had been kept from parents for two hours. After a legal challenge, Central Bedfordshire council admitted the children's human rights were breached and they had been racially discriminated against.[23]

Prevent has also been accused of reducing academic freedom. In November 2018, the University of Reading highlighted the article Our Morals: The Ethics of Revolution by Professor Norman Geras as potentially harmful. Students were instructed not to download the article on personal devices and not to leave the article where it could be visible ″inadvertently or otherwise, by those who are not prepared to view it″.[24] In March 2019, the Court of Appeal found that the Prevent guidance on inviting controversial speakers at Universities was unlawfully unbalanced and must be rewritten.[25]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "About the counter-terrorism strategy". Home Office. Archived from the original on 2009-02-17. Retrieved 2009-03-22.
  3. ^ "Thousands getting terror training". BBC News. 2009-03-22. Retrieved 2009-03-22.
  4. ^ "Counter-terrorism strategy (CONTEST) 2018". GOV.UK.
  5. ^ "CONTEST:The United Kingdom’s Strategy for Countering Terrorism". Home Office. July 2011.
  6. ^ "Channel General Awareness" (Online training material). College of Policing & Metropolitan Police Service. 2014. Retrieved 2015-11-03.
  7. ^ a b c d "The four Ps: Pursue, Prevent, Protect, and Prepare". Home Office. Archived from the original on 2009-07-11. Retrieved 2009-05-26.
  8. ^ "Counter-radicalisation (3): A disarming approach: Can the beliefs that feed terrorism be changed?". The Economist. 2 April 2016. Retrieved 4 April 2016.
  9. ^ "Prevent Training and Competencies Framework" (PDF). NHS England. Retrieved 2015-11-03.[permanent dead link]
  10. ^
  11. ^ SEWELL CHAN; STEVEN ERLANGER. "Questions on U.K. Policing Mount as 3rd London Attacker Is Identified". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 June 2017. Mr. Butt and his brother were also involved in the British program Prevent, which seeks to stop people from becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism, and which refers people suspected of radicalization to programs led by the police.
  12. ^ "Parsons Green bombing: Third arrest over Tube attack". BBC. Retrieved 19 September 2017. On Saturday an 18-year-old man, who the BBC has learnt had previously been referred to an anti-extremist programme, was arrested in Dover port.
  13. ^ Chris Pollard,; Nick Parker; Tom Michael; Pat Gysin. "WHY WASN'T HE STOPPED? Parsons Green suspect 'was reported to Prevent anti-terror hotline months ago' as new CCTV emerges". The Sun. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  14. ^ Anthony Pearce (19 September 2017). "Parsons Green terror suspect 'was reported to counter terror unit months ago'". Yahoo News UK. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  15. ^ Hope, Christopher (2009-03-21). "British hotels are vulnerable to Mumbai-style attacks, anti-terrorist officers warn". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2009-03-22.
  16. ^ Brown, Gordon (2009-03-22). "We are about to take the war against terror to a new level". The Observer. Retrieved 2009-03-22.
  17. ^ Vikram Dodd (16 October 2009). "Government anti-terrorism strategy 'spies' on innocent". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 June 2014.
  18. ^ Dominic Casciani (30 March 2010). "Prevent extremism strategy 'stigmatising', warn MPs". BBC. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
  19. ^ "Prevent gives people permission to hate Muslims – it has no place in schools". The Guardian. 4 April 2016. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  20. ^ Prevent, Karma Nabulsi writes about (18 May 2017). "Don't Go to the Doctor". London Review of Books. pp. 27–28. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  21. ^ Adams, Richard (28 March 2016). "Teachers back motion calling for Prevent strategy to be scrapped". The Guardian. Brighton, United Kingdom. Retrieved 28 March 2016.
  22. ^ "Telford MP Lucy Allan tables Parliamentary bill over school counter-terrorism measures". Shropshire Star. 7 March 2017. Retrieved 13 May 2017.
  23. ^ Esther Addley, Alexandra Topping (27 January 2017). "Council admits racially discriminating against two boys over Prevent toy gun referral". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  24. ^ Courea, Eleni (November 11, 2018). "University alerts students to danger of leftwing essay" – via
  25. ^ Gayle, Damien (8 March 2019). "UK's Prevent guidance to universities unlawful, court rules". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 March 2019.

External links[edit]