Dealing with PREVENT in Scotland
Being targeted by PREVENT doesn't mean you are suspected of a crime, but it puts you at risk of further police attention and could put you at risk of prosecution.
Don't engage with PREVENT unless you feel you have to.
Don't engage with PREVENT without a friend or lawyer present.
What is PREVENT?
PREVENT is a government strategy said to be intended to stop people turning to terrorism. It targets conduct that is lawful, but that the government believes may lead to terrorism. Doctors, nurses, lecturers, social workers and other public sector workers are trained under PREVENT to look for signs that colleagues and members of the public are "vulnerable to radicalisation". They are essentially spies for the government.
What should you do if you are targeted?
- You don't normally have to answer any questions from a police officer but:
- You must answer legitimate questions put to you at a port or airport under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000.
- If arrested or detained, or if you are a suspect or a witness to a crime, you must give police your name, address, date and place of birth and nationality. You don't have to answer any other questions.
- You don't have to answer any questions from any other person (eg a local council PREVENT officer).
- If you are approached in the street/your school/home etc in connection with PREVENT by any officer, you should refuse to speak without a lawyer present. You should then contact a solicitor straight away.
- If your employer, educational institution, health or social worker etc wishes to “informally” discuss any PREVENT related issues and you don't wish to refuse altogether, ensure that you have someone with you at the meeting eg union rep, friend, lawyer etc. Refuse to discuss any potentially criminal matter (eg suggestions of racist conduct, support for terrorism etc) without a lawyer present.
- Should a PREVENT officer be at any meeting you are in, ask them to identify themselves and the reason for their attendance. Refuse to answer any questions until you have spoken to a lawyer.
A PREVENT officer or a person trained in PREVENT may tell you that matters can be cleared up easily if you discuss their concerns without talking to a lawyer. This is untrue and may put you at risk.
PREVENT supposedly deals with lawful conduct, but the officer may raise matters that are potentially criminal. Without qualified legal advice, you can't be sure whether the line has been crossed. You may feel confident to respond to political issues the officer raises. Don't do so.
Don't engage. If you feel you must engage, consult a lawyer.
What happens if you are identified as at risk of radicalisation?
- Your school/doctor/social worker/etc will contact Police Scotland.
- You will be contacted by a PREVENT officer (probably a police officer). They may visit your home/workplace/school.
- If your child is identified, a police officer may contact your child at school without informing you first. Complain to the school. Tell them that you don't want this to happen. Tell them that you wish to be present, with a lawyer, if your child is contacted by police.
- The officer will want to ask you questions eg about your religion, what you think Israel, Palestine, Syria, ISIS etc. It may seem like a conversation rather than an interrogation. Don't answer any questions without a lawyer present.
- If you/your child are deemed to be at risk, Police Scotland may instigate a Prevent Professional Concerns (PPC) process. This is equivalent to the process called CHANNEL in England and Wales.
- If PPC is triggered, a multi-agency PPC meeting will be convened, with police in a key role. You will be told that this is happening. The meeting may agree a "support plan" for you/your child – effectively a "de-radicalisation programme". Participation is supposedly voluntary. The plan may involve mentoring, local community groups, local services etc.
The Scottish authorities are secretive about PPC processes, so the information in this section may change.
What happens to your personal information?
Information obtained under PREVENT may be shared with various official agencies. The data-sharing arrangements have not been published.
Officers in Police Scotland’s Prevent Delivery Units (PDUs) are required to coordinate their work with colleagues in PURSUE – the UK strategy for stopping terrorist attacks. PURSUE covers intelligence-gathering, prosecutions etc.
Download the "Know Your Rights: Dealing with Prevent in Scotland" leaflet: (pdf document)