The Government’s controversial Prevent counter-extremism strategy has been a “tremendous success” that has saved lives and should not be apologised for when an official review of its operation concludes, a former Met terror chief has warned.
Richard Walton, who led Scotland Yard’s SO15 counter-terrorism command between 2011 and 2016, said that strategy had stopped attacks and that it would be giving in to extremists to accept claims that it is a “toxic brand” or the wrong approach.
Instead he said that its successes should be “broadcast with confidence” and that its existence should be recognised as a “good thing for all of us”.
Mr Walton’s comments, in a podcast interview on combatting jihadist terror, came as a Home Office commissioned review into Prevent led by the former Charity Commission chairman William Shawcross continues.
They came as Mr Walton also warned that it was a mistake to present the danger from far-right terrorists in this country as equivalent to the much greater threat posed by Islamist terrorists.
He said the reality was that Islamists were responsible for “nine tenths” of the threat in the UK and remained a “very serious” danger both in this country and abroad.
His most contentious remarks, however, were on the Prevent strategy, which has come under fire since from some Muslim groups, who have accused it of targeting their communities, and other campaigners, and prompted a call from MPs on the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee for a rebrand.
There have also been cases in which extremists referred to Prevent have gone on to plot or attempt attacks. But Mr Walton insisted that it had been a success.
“Prevent has saved lives and prevented terrorist attacks, but extremists don’t like it because it threatens their existence,” he said.