A senior counter-terrorism officer has suggested that far-right extremism is a real and growing threat in the North East of England, citing the murder of MP Jo Cox as proof.
Detective Superintendent Nik Adams, the North East regional co-ordinator for the government’s anti-radicalisation Prevent strategy, which aims to combat all forms of extremism, said he believed there was a “real risk” that so-called far-right extremists could pose a threat to the public “if left untapped and unchallenged”.
Referring to the home secretary’s decision last month to proscribe neo-Nazi group National Action, Det Supt Adams said: “That reflects the growing concern about the risks that extreme right-wing groups pose,” The Yorkshire Post has reported.
Adams believes that the popularity of the group could lead to more incidents such as the murder of MP Jo Cox, although he concedes that no similar cases have so far been uncovered.
“Historically what you would see from the far-right was public disorder, public protest, that would have an impact on community cohesion, people’s sense of wellbeing and belonging,” he said.
“That sort of behaviour over time has become more concerning and when you layer on things like the murder of Jo Cox, for which Thomas Mair was convicted a few weeks ago, who was vocal in his extreme right-wing views, whilst we are not looking at intelligence suggesting we have got a growing number of Thomas Mairs, it is a concern that if left untapped and unchallenged, there is a real risk that could grow and we could see further incidents.”
Adams said Prevent was daily working on cases such as that of a 14-year-old boy who was said to have been turned away from “terrorism” after he espoused anti-Muslim views. According to the Harrogate Advertiser, the boy was referred to the programme after he made comments in school about Muslims “trying to take over the country” and was “vocal in his views around what Muslim people should or shouldn’t be allowed to wear”.
However, Adams admitted that Mair had shown no such signs of radicalisation.
“When you look at some of the publicity around Thomas Mair, close family, friends, neighbours, were saying he hadn’t displayed any of those behaviours,” he said.
“Only they will know if that is completely true, but it is not just young people, everyone can be vulnerable. If you are lost in life and don’t feel you belong, don’t feel you have a valuable stake in society, you are vulnerable to an extremist coming and presenting you with an alternative, presenting you with ‘here is a group of people that will accept you, nurture you, and will encourage you, here are some good things you can do which you will receive praise for’, all of which as far as society is concerned are bad, harmful, dangerous things.”
Around half of all cases referred to Prevent in Yorkshire involve people suspected of far-right extremism, while in the East Midlands they account for around 30 per cent of the caseload.
Figures released by the National Police Chief Council under the Freedom of Information Act show that 3,955 people were referred to Channel, the government’s anti-radicalisation programme in 2015, of whom around a third were suspected of Islamic radicalisation.
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