The more we know, the safer we become. Charlie Pericleous is the
Portsmouth coordinator for Prevent, the national strategy which aims
to prevent people being drawn into terrorism. Here, he talks about
local work to challenge all forms of extremism.
The UK threat level is currently at severe, meaning a terror attack is highly likely. But it was raised to critical twice in 2017, indicating an attack was expected imminently. We’ve had to face the reality of this threat in the five horrific terror attacks the UK has experienced this year.
The ideologies of terrorists range from neo-Nazi views, held by Norwegian mass-murderer Anders Breivik and by Thomas Mair, who murdered MP Jo Cox, to the beliefs shared by the killers of soldier Lee Rigby, who were inspired by Daesh (Isis or so-called Islamic State).
In Portsmouth work is under way to challenge extremism in all its forms.
Young people play a vital role in this, and an important part of this work is talking to students in schools and colleges.
Powerful talks have been given recently by Mike Haines, whose aid worker brother David was beheaded by Daesh, and by Bjorn Ihler, who survived the Anders Breivik attack in which 69 people were killed.
Not so long ago, you there was news coverage of six Portsmouth men who travelled to Syria. Later there were headlines about two Portsmouth brothers who helped some of them and were jailed on terror charges. With organisations such as Families against Stress and Trauma we have helped local communities challenge the extremist ideology of Daesh.
Often parents don’t know the best way to protect children from extremism and other online risks. So we’ve been working with national groups Parent Zone and Web Guardians to equip kids and parents with skills to use the internet in a safer way.
It’s crucial we encourage everyone to think about what they see online – to ask questions, be critical and keep themselves safe. This is what Prevent is about.
Extremists want to spread fear and distrust, and they prey on weakness or use anger to radicalise people. We would want to act if someone we cared about was being sexually abused, getting bullied online or becoming involved in drugs or gangs.
Being drawn into terrorism is no different. Our Prevent work is about protecting people and supporting them before they hurt others or get hurt themselves.
With local youth charities Motiv8 and Pompey in the Community, we have hosted 60 Respect workshops with young people, discussing extremism, hate crime and world events, and helping them test ideas and use critical thinking skills. In 2018 such work will continue, including talks by former members of extreme far-right groups.
Since 2015 we have also provided training for more than 3,000 professionals, including teachers and social workers, to help them understand what makes people vulnerable to extremism and how they can safeguard people they work with.
Extremists deliberately use misinformation or distorted facts to groom and manipulate vulnerable people.
But the more we know, the safer we can become.