Prevent and Freedom of Expression

Prevent is part of the UK government’s counter-terrorism strategy designed to counter extremist ideology and stop radicalisation. First introduced by the Labour government in response to the 9/11 attacks, the Prevent strategy was reformulated in 2011 under the Coalition Government.

The Prevent strategy obliges public sector organisations – such as schools, universities, the NHS etc. – and their employees to “have due regard to the need” to prevent individuals from being drawn into terrorism. Since 2015, the obligation now has statutory backing in the Counter-terrorism and Security Act.

The Information Law and Policy Centre’s research interest in the Prevent strategy lies in the potential impact on freedom of expression and academic freedom brought about by the Act’s enforcement. The potential clash between these civil liberties and the Act’s intended aim of safeguarding national security speaks to much broader ethical and legal issues facing liberal democracies.

There has also been considerable debate around the efficacy of the Prevent strategy and the practical implications of implementing the requirements of the Act within public sector organisations. In October 2015, the Information Law and Policy Centre held a one day event considering how the Act might affect universities, their staff and students. The keynote was delivered by the Rt Hon Sir Vince Cable.

IALS Resources

External Resources

Past IALS Events

  • Universities and Counter-terrorism: PREVENT in Practice, one day conference exploring the ideas underpinning the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act, the debates surrounding academic freedom and freedom of expression, and the practical questions which universities will need to address in the light of their duty to prevent radicalisation. With Rt. Hon. Sir Vince Cable, Professor Philip Murphy, (School of Advanced Study), Professor Anthony Glees (University of Buckingham), Dr Nadya Ali (University of Reading), Professor Ian Cram (University of Leeds), Dr Damien Short (Senior Lecturer in Human Rights, School of Advanced Study), Dr Rizwaan Sabir (Liverpool John Moores University), Dr Eric Metcalfe (Monckton Chambers), Rachel Robinson (Liberty), Rachael Jolley (Index on Censorship), Maureen Boylan (University of London), Dr Jessie Blackbourn (Kingston University), Stuart Brown (Head of ICT, University of London), Andrew Howarth (Deputy Head of Residential Accommodation), IALS, London, UK, 27 October 2015.