Government concedes permission for RWUK judicial review of Prevent Reviewer

By agency reporter
December 11, 2019

The Government has conceded that the case brought by Rights Watch (UK) challenging the Home Secretary’s appointment of Lord Carlile as the Independent Reviewer of Prevent (( , is at the very least arguable, and should be heard by the High Court. The Court has now granted permission for the case to proceed and the hearing will take place in January 2020.

“The fact that the Government have conceded permission for this case to go forward demonstrates the strength of our challenge”, said Yasmine Ahmed, Executive Director of Rights Watch UK.  “To appoint Lord Carlile to the position of Independent Reviewer is a serious misjudgement by the Secretary of State for the Home Office, and suggests the Government has failed to grapple with what the review was intended to achieve. Prior to being appointed as the Reviewer, Lord Carlile openly and unabashedly stated that a Review of Prevent was unnecessary, repeatedly endorsed the strategy, said that evidence calling for the review was fabricated or false, and cast aspersions on those raising concerns about Prevent and the Review.”

Rights Watch (UK) has been consistently calling for a genuinely independent review of Prevent since the publication of its landmark report, Preventing Education?: UK Counter Terrorism Policy in Schools in 2016.  The report highlighted the impact of the strategy – which is widely perceived to be, and evidence suggests is, a soft surveillance tool used against impacted communities including children – and its adverse impacts on freedom of speech, the right to education, and the right to privacy, to name just a few. The report also highlights the counter-productivity of a strategy that alienates the very communities that the Government needs to work with and related to this, lacks any evidential basis. The report, further research, and growing concerns from impacted communities, prompted similar calls from a wide and growing number of domestic and international stakeholders.

In February 2019, Parliament forced the Government, by way of an amendment to the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill, to establish an independent review of Prevent.

In response to the Review being established, Rights Watch published a proposed a Terms of Reference for the Review  which was the result of extensive consultations with impacted communities and persons involved in counter-terrorism related legislative Reviews, as well as those involved in other non-security related Reviews. Those proposed Terms of Reference made clear that it was necessary that the appointment of the Reviewer was made in accordance with the Public Appointments Process, and the scope of the Review was sufficiently broad so as to encompass the impact and necessity of, and the evidential basis for, the strategy. Despite initially confirming that they would follow the public appointment process principles, on 12 August 2019 the Government appointed Lord Carlile of Berriew QC behind closed doors.  On 16 September, the Home Office published a Terms of Reference which almost exclusively focuses on efficacy to the exclusion of the broader societal and human rights impact of the strategy, and is confined to a forward-looking analysis, ignoring the effects and impacts of the strategy to date.

On 16 October 2019, Rights Watch (UK), represented by law firm Leigh Day, issued a challenge to the Government’s appointment of Lord Carlile as Independent Reviewer of the Prevent strategy as well as the narrow Terms of Reference that Lord Carlile set for the Review.

Ahmed continued: “This is the last step available to try and ensure this review is genuinely robust and delivers on what Parliament wanted – an independent and impartial review. Rights Watch (UK) along with a chorus of others from impacted communities, civil society, Parliament and the UN have been consistently calling for an independent Review of Prevent given the harms that it gives rise to and its counter-productive effect.

"How can this Review possibly have any legitimacy when the Chair of the Review has been so publicly outspoken in support of Prevent, discredited those who have raised concerns without providing evidence, and has been intimately involved in the formation of the policy? Rights Watch (UK), impacted communities and a chorus of others have repeatedly called on the Government to reconsider Lord Carlile’s appointment. We have all been ignored.

"To add insult to injury, Lord Carlile’s leadership is operating under Terms of Reference which are heavily focused on efficacy to the exclusion of the societal and human rights impact of the strategy and is confined to a forward-looking analysis. Serious questions and issues are left ignored by this Review.

" We are concerned that the Government have stacked the cards in their favour so that the Review will not only operate as a rubber-stamp to the current policy but like the last Review, which was also overseen by Lord Carlile, will provide the basis to expand its remit and reach. This litigation is the last means to try and make sure that this Review actually provides what is so desperately needed, a holistic and independent review of the Prevent strategy.”

Rights Watch (UK) is fundraising for the case through CrowdJustice, which provides further details about RWUK’s claim and the basis for it.

Carolin Ott from law firm Leigh Day, added: “We are pleased that the government has conceded permission in this case so we can now focus on presenting our client’s evidence to the High Court. Our client argues that there are clearly concerns about the strategy that need to be fully examined by a review, and to make this review effective it must be completely independent and of a wide scope that looks at past, present and future implications of the strategy.”

* Read Preventing Education? UK Counter Terrorism Policy in Schools here

* Rights Watch (UK)


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