Attempts to deradicalise jihadis using mentoring and theological programmes do not work, the head of the terrorism watchdog has warned.
Jonathan Hall QC said there is ‘no magic bullet, no special pill’ that could successfully deradicalise someone whether they were coming back from Syria or being released from a prison.
Instead, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation suggested said that extremists being released onto the streets of Britain should be closely monitored and made to take lie-detector tests.
Attempts to deradicalise jihadis using mentoring and theological programmes do not work, Jonathan Hall QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation has said
He described terrorists as ‘deceptive’ like sex offenders, who would say anything their probation staff would want to hear if it meant being given their freedom.
There has been furious debate over whether Britons returning from ISIS in Syria and Iraq, such as Shamima Begum who has been stripped of her citizenship, should be allowed back into the country with the help of mentoring.
Mr Hall added that although there was no harm in using theological mentoring and other schemes for offenders, people should be under ‘no illusion’ they would be effective.
It comes amid furious debate over whether Britons returning from ISIS in Syria and Iraq, such as Shamima Begum who has been stripped of her citizenship, should be allowed back into the country with the help of mentoring
Terrorists freed to launch knife attacks on UK streets after ‘deradicalision’ failed
Usman Khan, 28, attacked and killed two people using kitchen knives he had taped to his wrists on London Bridge last year.
He was attending an offender rehabilitation meeting at Fishmongers’ Hall in central London after serving less than seven years in jail for planning an al-Qaeda attack.
Sudesh Amman, 20, was shot dead after stabbing two people on Streatham high street in south London in February.
He had been released from prison on licence a few weeks before. He took part in a deradicalisation programme while in jail.
He told The Times: ‘It’s a pretty difficult, complex and fraught process. You can’t tell the public that you can place someone with a theological mentor […] and they’ll come out the other side. It’s far more difficult than that.
‘I can see why people try, because if you didn’t try, it would be throwing away all hope, and these offenders are also subjected to some pretty major restrictions so it’s worth giving them an opportunity to change.
‘And there will be some who will change, but you should be under no illusions. It is not some automatic process. And in many cases it simply won’t work. It doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying.’
His comments come just over a year after Usman Khan, who was attending an offender rehabilitation meeting at Fishmongers’ Hall in central London, attacked and killed two people using kitchen knives he had taped to his wrists.
Khan had been on a Desistance and Disengagement Programme (DDP), which focused on giving education and theological support to convicted terrorists or returned jihadist fighters.
Khan had also been supported by a psychologist.
Recent figures reveal a record number of extremists have been sent to another government deradicalisation scheme called The Channel project.
There were 697 new cases in the year to the end of March, which was driven by surging numbers of far-right sympathisers.
The Home Office said 302 cases were over concerns regarding right-wing radicalisation.
Fears over Islamist extremists led to 260 referrals.
Most of the total – more than 5,500 – were male and more than half (3,423) were aged 20 or under.
The Channel programme provides support including education and mental health workers in an attempt to divert extremists away from terrorism.
It also provides ‘ideological mentoring’.
Mr Hall said he supported plans in the government’s Counter Terrorism Bill to subject released terrorists to polygraph tests.
The measure, which has been used in the management of sexual offenders since 2013, will apply to terrorist offenders with a ‘Very High/High risk’ of serious harm who have served at least 12 months in jail.
The measures were drawn up after the London Bridge attack to tighten the monitoring of serious offenders in the community.
Justice Secretary & Lord Chancellor, Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP, said: ‘Terrorists and their hateful ideologies have no place on our streets. They can now expect to go to prison for longer and face tougher controls on release.
‘From introducing a 14-year minimum for the most dangerous offenders, to putting in place stricter monitoring measures, this government is pursuing every option available to tackle this threat and keep communities safe.’