There has been a large rise in the number of young men referred to the government’s Prevent scheme over the women-hating “incel” ideology, official statistics have shown.
A senior counter-terrorism officer described incel as an “emerging risk” making up 1% of all referrals to the anti-extremism scheme in the year to March 2022 – 77 cases – triggered by concerns that mainly young men were falling for its message.
That figure compares with no recorded referrals in the year to March 2000, and just three referrals in the year to March 2021.
Counter-terrorism officials believe the rise in reported cases is because of spread in the UK of its ideology – largely via the internet – and because of a growing awareness of its potential dangers among teachers and others who can refer cases to Prevent after the August 2021 Plymouth shooting.
Jake Davison viewed incel websites and content before killing five people, an inquest has heard. Counter-terrorism police have said they do not believe the attack was motivated by incel propaganda.
Davison, 22, shot his mother and four passersby, including a three-year-old girl before killing himself.
Evidence in Britain is emerging of incel co-exisiting with other extremist violent ideologies. Luca Benincasa, 20, was jailed for six years on Wednesday for belonging to the extreme far-right Feuerkrieg Division. The court heard he also identified with incel culture.
Incel has been the trigger for atrocities overseas. In 2018 a man in Toronto who identified with the movement murdered 10 people in a van attack, mowing down pedestrians on a pavement.
The figures out on Thursday also showed that concerns about youngsters interested in school massacres made up 154 referrals, 2% of the total.
Det Ch Supt Maria Lovegrove, Prevent’s national lead for counter-terrorism policing, said of the incel and school shooting statistics: “One of Prevent’s crucial roles is providing important indicators of emerging risks, particularly in light of incidents in other parts of the world.
“Whilst not currently considered terrorist ideologies, they have the ability to inspire terrible acts of violence – and it is therefore important that Prevent works to disengage people from these beliefs.
“The number of these cases is very low, but it is encouraging that people feel confident to report concerns about risk of radicalisation, wherever this stems from.”
Overall there were 6,406 referrals to Prevent last year, up 30% on the previous year. This is thought to be largely due to the lifting of pandemic restrictions with most referrals – 36% – coming from education.
Most cases were sent to other services. In the end 13% – 804 cases – were adopted by the scheme known as Channel, which deals with individuals thought to be at greatest risk of committing violence.
The Home Office said: “There were more adopted cases for individuals referred for concerns related to extreme rightwing radicalisation (339; 42%) compared [with] individuals with concerns related to Islamist radicalisation (156; 19%).”
Lovegrove said: “Established terrorist ideologies still pose the most significant threat of radicalisation, but young men who are fascinated by, and seek out, all types of extremist or violent content online are increasingly prevalent in referrals to Prevent.”
A government review of Prevent is expected to be published soon and is expected to say the official counter-radicalisation scheme focuses too much on the extreme right, when the greatest threat of terrorist violence comes from Islamists.
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