Home secretary Amber Rudd yesterday issued an unequivocal defence of the Government’s anti-radicalisation programme, after a Yorkshire civil liberties charity called for the controversial policy to be scrapped.
Ms Rudd was speaking during a visit to Leeds, where she took a tour of Karma Nirvana, a charity which supports victims of honour crime and forced marriage.
Earlier in the day, charity JUST Yorkshire had published its damning independent review into a strand of the Prevent programme, which concluded that it is “counter-productive”, and is “brewing a climate of self-censorship and fear”.
Co-author and senior lecturer at Leeds Beckett University, Dr. Waqas Tufail, said: “Our independent report has engaged with grassroots perspectives and has highlighted the many harms of Prevent, particularly those impacting on Muslim minorities.”
However speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Ms Rudd said she had met a women’s group earlier in the day which was working through Prevent to try and stop people in their community becoming radicalised.
“One of the women said ‘I’ve seen the report, I could find you a hundred people tomorrow to tell you about the great work that Prevent does.
“I haven’t seen the report, but from what she said to me, it was unfortunate that they only selected 35 people who seemed to oppose it.
“I think Prevent does fantastic work safeguarding families and children from all backgrounds, and we are determined to protect them all.”
She stressed that work was ongoing to fight extremism of all kinds, “from the far right and from the Muslim community”.
During yesterday’s visit, the Home Secretary heard from victims of honour based crimes, who urged the Government to retrain police and public sector workers to be LESS culturally sensitive, in order to stop criminals using it as a weapon to escape justice.
The plea was made directly to the Minister during a round-the-table discussion with clients and staff of the charity - and echoed some of her own comments earlier this month.
The Minister heard from several survivors of honour abuse, including a woman who was forced into a marriage after being tricked into going on holiday to Pakistan, and a man whose gay Asian partner committed suicide after being rejected by his family.
Ms Rudd said: “There’s nothing more powerful than hearing those individual cases, the way they told those stories will stay with me forever.
“It was important for me to hear - and it reinforced my commitment to making sure that we do all we can to protect women and indeed men from the type of honour based violence that we have been hearing about.”
Asked if there had been failures and under-investment in dealing with the issue in the past, she added: “An awful lot of work has been done. A lot of the testimony I heard was ‘thank goodness there is somewhere to turn now’. “It’s fair to say that we have learned - communities and previous Governments - that we need to have places where people can go.
“And the other thing I really learnt from listening to their testimonies and their stories was about making sure that the police are well trained.
“I am going to make sure that we continue to really press that issue of ensuring the police receive the necessary training to respond in the right way.
“Yes, the police do need to be made more aware of the sort of circumstances that could lead to the consequences that we heard here today.”
Jasvinder Sanghera, founder of Karma Nirvana, said she hoped the Home Secretary would take away with her serious lessons about something that is “a reality for British citizens born here in the UK who are affected by forced marriage and honour based abuse”.
“I also hope she takes away the fact that police forces need training and they need to be using their risk assessments,” she added.
“Professionals and people in power are feeling censored if they speak the truth about how victims are being let down for fear of causing offence, and cultural sensitivities. We should be able to say that.
“We have to recognise that perpetrators hide behind cultural sensitivity.
“They are using it as a weapon against you to make you look the other way. So if you are worried about being called a racist or of offending communities, then you are part of the problem.”