Monday, 24 October 2016

"If the community sees [PREVENT] as a problem, then you have a problem”

Image for earlier report by Rights Watch LINK

Earlier this month Brent Council organised a public discussion on Extremism at which the majority of the audience appeared to be opposed to the Prevent Strategy - not because they were in favour of 'Extremism' but because they saw the strategy as sterotyping the Muslim community and being implemented in a top-down way which excluded community organisations. Additionally it threatened free speech in schools and colleges and had a corrosive effect on good community relations.  Overall it was likely to be counter-productive.

Now Open Society has taken up many of these issues in a report entitled Eroding Trust: The UK's PREVENT Counter Extremism Strategy in Health and Education LINK

Concerned organisations in Brent has set up a Monitoring Group on Prevent on Facebook which can be found HERE.

As a contribution to the Brent debate I publish below the Executive Summary of the Open Society Report:
“I’ve never felt not British. And this [Prevent experience] made me feel very, very, like they tried to make me feel like an outsider. We live here. I am born and bred here, not from anywhere else”.
“It could have gone the opposite way if I wasn’t thinking straight, if I were the type who was being brainwashed. The way they went about it, [Prevent] could have made me do exactly what they told me not to do. I associate with Prevent negatively, it is not helpful at all”
 Executive Summary and Recommendations

The UK’s Prevent strategy, which purports to prevent terrorism, creates a serious risk of human rights violations. The programme is flawed in both its design and application, rendering it not only unjust but also counterproductive. 
Launched in 2003, the Prevent strategy has evolved against the background of increased public fears over the threat of “home grown” terrorism. The strategy in its cur- rent form aims “to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism”. In 2015, legislation created a statutory Prevent duty on schools, universities, and NHS trusts, among other public sector entities, to have “due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”. This requires doctors, psychologists, and teachers, among other health and education professionals, to identify individuals at risk of being drawn into terrorism (including violent and non-violent “extremism”) for referral to the police-led multi-agency “Channel” programme (for England and Wales) or “Prevent Professional Concerns” (for Scotland), both of which purport to “support” such individuals. 
This report analyses the human rights impact of Prevent in its current form in the education and health sectors. It focuses on these sectors because they are critically dependent on trust and have particular care-giving functions that have not traditionally been directed towards preventing terrorism. Under Prevent, doctors and teachers who have a professional duty to care for their charges are now required to assess and report them for being at risk of “extremism”, which is defined as “vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs”. Because the conscription of these sectors into preventing terrorism is part of a growing trend, the report’s principal findings, listed below, not only apply to the United Kingdom, but are relevant and instructive for other governments grappling with these challenges. 
First, the current Prevent strategy suffers from multiple, mutually reinforcing structural flaws, the foreseeable consequence of which is a serious risk of human rights violations. These violations include, most obviously, violations of the right against discrimination, as well the right to freedom of expression, among other rights. Prevent’s structural flaws include the targeting of “pre-criminality”, “non- violent extremism”, and opposition to “British values”. This “intensifies” the government’s reach into “everyday lawful discourse”. Furthermore, Prevent’s targeting of non-violent extremism and “indicators” of risk of being drawn into terrorism lack a scientific basis. Indeed, the claim that non-violent extremism – including “radical” or religious ideology – is the precursor to terrorism has been widely discredited by the British government itself, as well as numerous reputable scholars. Prevent training, much of it based on unreliable indicators, appears to be largely unregulated. Moreover, the statutory duty creates an incentive to over- refer. This incentive is reinforced by the adverse consequences associated with non-compliance with the Prevent duty and the lack of adverse consequences for making erroneous referrals. The case studies and interviews in this report confirm the tendency to over-refer individuals under Prevent. The fundamental nature of these defects makes them unlikely to be cured by a mere renaming of Prevent to “Engage”.

Second, Prevent’s overly broad and vague definition of “non-violent extremism” creates the potential for systemic human rights abuses. On the basis of this definition, schools, universities, and NHS trusts, among other “specified authorities” subject to the Prevent duty, are required to assess the risk of children, students, and patients being drawn into terrorism and report them to the police-led Channel programme where necessary. By the government’s own admission, thou- sands of people have been erroneously referred to the Channel programme. Individuals (including children) erroneously referred under Prevent experience the referral as inherently stigmatising and intensely intimidating. They also fear continued surveillance and the creation and retention of Prevent records, which may taint them and lead others to view them as “extremists” in the future. 
Specifically, the targeting of non-violent extremism raises serious concerns about possible violations of the right to freedom of expression. Children in schools have been targeted under Prevent for expressing political views. University conferences relating to Islamophobia and Islam in Europe have been cancelled, raising questions of possible breaches under the Education Act (1986) and article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. More generally, the case studies and interviews in this report suggest that Prevent has created a significant chilling effect on freedom of expression in schools and universities, and undermined trust between teachers and students. This risks driving underground, removed from debate and challenge, conversations about controversial issues such as terrorism. In addition, as indicated by the large number of interviewees for this report who requested anonymity, there is a genuine and intensely held fear among some that public criticism of Prevent will trigger retaliation. This fear is particularly acute for parents who fear that their children will bear the brunt of the retaliation. 
Third, the Prevent duty creates a risk of discrimination, particularly against Muslims. Frontline professionals have broad discretion to act on their conscious or unconscious biases in deciding whom to report under Prevent. Current and former police leads for Prevent recognise that currently, Prevent operates in a cli- mate marked by Islamophobia. Significantly, between July 2015 and July 2016, Islamophobic crime in London rose by 94 percent. This climate creates the risk that Muslims in particular may be erroneously targeted under Prevent. All of the case studies relating to the targeting of individuals under Prevent raise serious questions about whether they would have been targeted in this manner had they not been Muslim. Relatedly, in some case studies, Muslims appear to have been targeted under Prevent for displaying signs of increased religiosity, raising questions about the violation of their right to manifest their religion.
Fourth, by requiring the identification and reporting of individuals at risk of violent and non-violent extremism, Prevent creates a risk of violations of the right to privacy. Many of the case studies describe individuals being intrusively questioned under intimidating conditions about their religious and/or political beliefs. One case study raises troubling questions about the collection (apparently without informed consent) of names and political opinions from Muslim children for the Home Office.

Fifth, there are serious concerns about the treatment of children under Prevent. Although the government describes Prevent as a form of “safeguarding” (a statutory term which denotes promotion of welfare and protection from harm), the two sets of obligations have materially different aims, particularly with respect to children. In contrast to the Prevent strategy, for which the primary objective is preventing terrorism, the primary objective of the duty to safeguard children under domestic legislation is the welfare of the child. This reflects the obligation under article 3(1) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child to make the best interests of the child a primary consideration in all actions relating to children. Accordingly, while compliance with safeguarding obligations would only permit referral to Channel while prioritising the best interests of the child, the Channel duty guidance does not specify that as a mandatory or even a relevant consideration. All of the case studies in this report relating to children – including one in which a four year-old child was targeted– appear to be instances in which the best interests of the child were not a primary consideration. 
Sixth, the Prevent duty risks breaching health bodies’ duty of confidentiality towards their patients and undermining the relationship between health professionals and their patients. The standard for disclosure of confidential information under Prevent appears to be much lower than that warranted by the common law duty of confidentiality enshrined in the NHS confidentiality code of practice and the General Medical Council’s confidentiality guidance. Specifically, requiring a medical professional to report to the police-led Channel programme an individual who is at “risk of being drawn into terrorism”, including “non-violent extremism”, appears to be a much lower standard than requiring the medical professional to report (under the GMC guidance) the individual only when failure to disclose confidential information would expose others to a risk of death or serious harm. This could generate breaches of the confidentiality duty along with violations of the right to private life under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Finally, there are serious indications that Prevent is counterproductive. The case studies show that being wrongly targeted under Prevent has led some Muslims to question their place in British society. Other adults wrongfully targeted under Prevent have said that, had they been different, their experience of Prevent could have drawn them towards terrorism, and not away from it. Government data reveal that 80% of all Channel referrals were set aside, implying that there were thousands of individuals wrongly referred to Channel. This in turn risks under- mining the willingness of targeted communities to supply intelligence to law enforcement officials which could be used to prevent terrorist acts.
As Sir David Omand, the architect of the original version of Prevent, has observed: “The key issue is, do most people in the community accept [Prevent] as protective of their rights? If the community sees it as a problem, then you have a problem”. This report demonstrates that the UK’s Prevent strategy is indeed a serious problem. 

To the UK Government:

1.     Repeal the Prevent duty with respect to the health and education sectors. 

2.     End the targeting and reporting of “non-violent extremism” under the Prevent strategy. 

3.     End the use of empirically unsupported indicators of vulnerability to being drawn into terrorism. 

4.     Establish an independent public inquiry – with civil society participation – into the Prevent strategy and associated rights violations. 

5.     Create a formal and independent complaints mechanism through which individu- als whose rights have been violated by the Prevent strategy can seek and obtain prompt and meaningful remedies. 

6.     Publicly commit to a policy of zero tolerance regarding retaliation against indi- viduals who allege rights violations under Prevent. 

7.     Publicly disclose data on total number of individuals referred to and processed through Prevent, Channel, and Prevent Professional Concerns (PPC), as well a the breakdown of these figures by age, type of extremism, and referring authority. 

8.     Publicly disclose, to the extent it exists, evidence underpinning and data relating to the UK’s Extremism Risk Guidance (ERG) 22+. 

To the Children’s Commissioners for England, Wales, and Scotland:

Conduct an assessment of the impact of Prevent on children, including but not limited to whether the best interests of the child are a primary consideration in Prevent-related actions. 
To the National Association of Head Teachers, the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the National Union of Teachers, and other teachers associations: 
Conduct an assessment of the impact of Prevent on teachers and children, including but not limited to the extent to which the best interests of the child are a primary consideration in Prevent-related actions.

To Universities UK:

Conduct an assessment of the impact of Prevent in universities, including but not limited to its impact on academic freedom and freedom of speech. 
To the General Medical Council: 
Review and clarify professional standards relating to the duty of confidentiality as interpreted and applied in Prevent settings. 
To the British Medical Association, the British Psychological Society,
the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and other professional bodies in the health sector: 
Conduct an assessment of the impact of Prevent on the practice of doctors, psychologists and other healthcare professionals, and on patients and patient care, including but not limited to an assessment of how the duty of confidentiality is being interpreted and applied in Prevent settings.

Video Review of Grunwick Exhibition

Sunday, 23 October 2016

What would a Victorian Gentleman think about Wembley now?

Guest blog by local historian Philip Grant
Wembley History Society recently received an enquiry. A lady from Surrey had a miniature painting of a Victorian gentleman, noted on the back as being “John Turton Woolley of Wembley House, Wembley. Great uncle of H Arnold Woolley.” She wanted to know where “Wembley House” was, as it did not appear to exist now. Luckily, past research by members of the Society provided the information.

John Turton Woolley of Wembley House, Wembley.

There was a “Wembley House” mentioned in documents as far back as 1510, the chief home of the Page family who created a grander mansion at Wembley Park in the 18th century. The Victorian Wembley House was on the south side of the Harrow Road, about halfway between the present day Park Lane and Wembley Hill Road (Wembley Triangle) junctions. In 1817, it was the home and business premises of a wheelwright, but the mainly agricultural district of Wembley began to become gentrified after a station (Sudbury and Wembley, now Wembley Central) was opened on the London and Birmingham Railway in 1844. Wealthy professional men could now live with their families in country homes, away from the grime and squalor of central London, but still commute easily to the City. 

In 1850, Wembley House was occupied by a doctor, and by the 1870’s John Woolley had made it his home. He was a stockbroker, and as well as the house he also owned the adjacent 27 acres, which were run for him by a farm manager as a dairy farm, with pigs and poultry. Either side of Wembley House, in large grounds, were Wembley Orchard to the west (with its own stables and coach house) and another former farmhouse to the east. This was renamed “Rhampore” in 1882, when it became the residence of His Highness Rajah Rampal Singh (one of the founder members of the Indian National Congress Party, who started “The Hindusthan” newspaper while living here, before returning to India as ruler of Kalakankar in 1885).  

It was probably John Woolley who added several Victorian “gothic” features to Wembley House, including a tower and turret looking out over extensive gardens, with a broad path running through them down to a duck pond.

Wembley House from
its grounds, c. 1900

When Woolley left, or died, in the 1890’s, Wembley House passed into the hands of Colonel George Topham. By the early 20th century Wembley was starting to be developed for housing, and Topham decided to lay out most of his farmland as the Wembley House Estate. Some homes in Cecil and Lonsdale Avenues had been built before the First World War, although most were built in the 1920’s. 

Wembley House itself was acquired in 1915 for use as a private school, with both “Boys” and “Ladies” sections. A Council school for both primary and secondary pupils was built next door in the 1920’s, and in the late 1930’s Wembley House was acquired by Middlesex County Council, and demolished, with a view to extending this. As it was, Wembley Hill School was badly damaged by a V1 flying bomb in 1944, so a brand new secondary school was built on both sites in the early 1950’s, opening as Copland School in 1952, on the corner of Wembley High Road and Cecil Avenue.

In 2014 the school became Ark Elvin Academy, which is in the process of erecting new buildings on part of its playing fields. The existing school, on the site of Wembley House, is due to become an informal landscaped area once demolished, but how long before this valuable High Road frontage is rebuilt again for more high-rise homes? 

Ark Elvin Academy, with new buildings under construction, from the diverted footpath across its fields, and with Brent House and the High Road in the background, October 2016.
If John Turton Woolley were to return, 120 years on, what would he think of the view from the bottom of his garden? Would he see the desecration of a beautiful country home, or (with his stockbroker hat on) a potential source of profits for his investor clients?

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Keith Taylor MEP: Toxic trade deal unravelling

Keith Taylor, Green MEP for the South East, has cautiously welcomed the news that a summit of EU leaders in Brussels has ended without any sign of a breakthrough on the controversial EU-Canada trade deal (CETA).

Taylor, who sits on the European Parliament's Environment Committee and is a staunch opponent of CETA and its well-known cousin TTIP, said:
Today's failure to agree a deal on CETA at the second time of asking this week is cause for celebration; the toxic trade deal is unravelling. But the deal isn't dead yet. Greens will stand with citizens across Europe until this controversial accord is defeated.

Put simply; CETA is a bad deal for the people of Britain, Europe, and even Canada, but a great deal for multinational corporations keen to escape the democratic oversight of national parliaments. It is little wonder that citizens across Europe and in North America are the loudest and more determined opponents of this toxic trade deal.  
'We ordinary people should not be the slaves of puppet governments that work for the benefit of the multinational.' So came the rallying cry of one citizen outside the European Parliament yesterday. Inside, decision makers were busy trying to find a way to resurrect the lame duck accord.

The deal, and particularly the 'Investment Court System' clause within it, poses a fundamental democratic question: do we want national parliaments to retain the power to legislate on behalf of their citizens or do we want to surrender that power to help boost the profit margins of multinational corporations? As a Green, the answer is clear; which is why I will continue working to halt this corporate power grab.

That Theresa May and her Ministers are still vehemently supporting the deal and pushing for it to be signed before Britain leaves the European Union is doubly concerning. It signals a desire to ensure Britain remains bound by the deal even after departing from the EU. It also sets a worrying precedent for the kinds of toxic trade deals desperate Ministers, supposed to be acting on behalf of the British people, will sign once the UK is outside of the EU.

World trade union meeting unites against TiSA and CETA

Pics from Panama

Global trade union leaders meeting in Panama have united in condemnation of TiSA (the Trade in Services Agreement and CETA (the Comprehensive Economic & Trade Agreement). The representatives, who were attending a key ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) meeting, highlighted the risks that both trade agreements pose to jobs and job security.

The two-day event is being held in Panama in recognition of that country’s role as a key global transport hub and component of the Federation’s plans for building the future of work LINK

Among those protesting against the trade deals were union representatives from Australia, Canada, Chile, Taiwan, Colombia, Costa Rica, European Union member states, Hong Kong China, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Korea, Liechtenstein, Mauritius, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States. All pledged to renew their objections with their own governments.

The ITF has been one of the harshest critics of the trade agreements and has repeatedly warned of its little publicised risks and built-in injustices. It has laid out how they  will affect transport workers  LINK  such as seafarers, dockers and aviation workers, by undermining maritime cabotage rules that support vital national marine trades and knowledge, and throwing open nations’ ports and airports to predatory corporate raiders. The Federation has also allied itself with other international union organisations that have exposed the trade pacts’ agenda of promoting unwanted privatisation and liberalisation LINK .

ITF president Paddy Crumlin commented:
TiSA and CETA are a threat to all that trade unions hold dear – secure, safe and worthwhile jobs and the preservation of essential and hard fought standards. No one should be surprised that we have pledged to go from this meeting and continue the fight against them.
ITF general secretary Steve Cotton said:
Unions must keep up the pressure on TiSA and CETA and this event in Panama has been well timed and placed to assist with that, as the TiSA negotiators meet in Washington and the deadline for parties to submit their second revised market access offers falls tomorrow – not to mention the Belgium vote. Rarely have so many opportunities for us to be heard in pointing out the secretive and unjust nature at the core of these talks lined up together.

# ITFPanamaEB

'Sell Off' - The abolition of the NHS. Free film screening Wembley Nov 3rd

Free film screening in Wembley (followed by a discussion with Dr Bob Gill)

Thursday November 3rd from 6.30pm

Hospitals around the country are under imminent threat of closure, and our NHS is being privatised, dismantled and taken away from us. This one-hour documentary entitled 'Sell Off' explains how it has happened, for how long, and by whom. Please join us to find out what we're up against, and to discuss what we can do to stop and reverse it.

This important free NHS film event takes place in Wembley. The venue is the IHRC (Book Shop), 202 Preston Road (close to Preston Road tube station), Wembley, HA9 8PA.

Heron House campaigners issue urgent call for support before October 25th deadline

The site
Second Pre-application design

From campaigners against Heron House redevelopment plans LINK

We urgently need your support to sign this Letter of Objection to stop the  huge redevelopment of Heron House, Wembley Hill Road, Wembley.  Please make any changes you see fit.

The deadline for comments/objections is October 25th 2016 

1)  Copy the letter below making any alterations you think fit. Insert your full name and address, including postcode, in FROM
2)  Paste into an email with Heron House Ref: 16/4156 in subject line and send  to:
3)  Now please forward to family members over 18 years and as many people as possible anywhere in the UK.


I strongly object to the proposed redevelopment of Heron House, Wembley Hill Road, Wembley by Plowden Limited,  for the following reasons and I urge Brent Council to refuse planning permission.  Brent Council Ref:  16/4156

1)  Stadium & High Road Regeneration: Those who live in Wembley can expect 11,000 high rise dwellings in the massive Regeneration of the Stadium and High Road Areas ("Regeneration").  As this regeneration was planned and agreed many decades ago, its progress will continue and one can only hope it will  be of benefit to all the residents of Brent. Will this now be copied in other locations throughout the country?

2) Smaller High Rise Developments: Our greatest fear is the  smaller high rise developments, which are intrusive and are rapidly creeping into residential streets everywhere,  whose impact is adversely affecting our quality of life.  One of these is the proposed redevelopment  of Heron House on Wembley Hill Road, into expensive higher rise flats and commercial businesses and I am very concerned that if permission is granted, similar developments could very well happen on my street next!

3) Not in Keeping with the Character of the Street:  Wembley Hill Road and all the street off it are totally residential and the existing Heron House was built in the '60s and is not as intrusive, overbearing or dense as the proposed development will be. The proposed development is much larger and certainly not in keeping with the character of the streets  and its visual effect will totally spoil the area.   Our streets consist of houses, bungalows, maisonettes, small blocks of flats and gardens.

4) Too close To Existing Regeneration:  As  the "Regeneration"  has already planned 11,000 dwellings, any more higher buildings in the same vicinity is surely excessive and would have a negative impact on the area, overshadowing all the houses around it, with an increase in noise pollution.

5) Loss of light, privacy and the existing outlook:  Although the Developers apparently plan to block some of the balcony glass partitions, they cannot possibly do this in all directions, so many residents will still be overlooked and lose their privacy and existing outlook. The dense building will also block out a significant amount of light for all the nearby residents.

6) Parking:   The proposal by Plowden mentioned a number of parking spaces smaller than the number of flats proposed. Therefore there will not be enough parking spaces for all the vehicles from the flats and the commercial businesses.   This will be putting even more pressure on the streets around  Wembley Hill Road, where there is already a huge demand for parking spaces and it is almost impossible to find one.

7) Traffic and Air Quality:  The transport implications have not been taken fully in consideration. The traffic at the nearby junction at the London Designer Outlet  is already gridlocked every day, so how will our roads cope with all the extra traffic that will be generated? There will always be disruptions around this junction, as road works never seem to stop and with all the extra traffic from the "Regeneration", we cannot allow even more traffic chaos from this new development.
The air quality in the area which has already been impacted by the "Regeneration", will only get worse. The main pollutants of concern, nitrogen oxides,  are lung irritant and especially liable to harm children and those with chest problems such as asthma. Surely the Council has a duty to enhance the health and wellbeing of the local community and not encourage every one of these smaller developments?  Heron House in particular  is right on the door step of the "Regeneration", it surely is not vital?

8)  Setting A Dangerous Precedent:  If this large higher development is allowed in a residential area, it will also set a dangerous precedent and before long even more developers will want to do the same. How much more destructive impact on our residential areas is the Council going to allow, despite huge opposition from its residents?  It is very unfair, as we are all already trying to retain the residential areas we live in, despite the looming high rises of the "Regeneration"

9)  Likely Purchase of Land Opposite:  These same developers have already expressed an interest in purchasing St Joseph's,  the land opposite Heron house, with a view to building yet another higher rise block! We cannot just sit back and do nothing and allow the development of these buildings, as local people are being priced out of the area, which impacts on other areas of the Borough.

10)  Other Sites:  There are many brown-filled and derelict sites in Brent, where these part/commercial development can be situated and these should be used before encroaching onto our residential streets.

11) Impact on Infrastructure:  What provision has been made for the infrastructure needed to cope with the extra people? As this is a new development,  provision obviously was not made when creating the "Regeneration".

12) A Concrete Jungle:  I am trying not to be too pessimistic, but  these smaller high rise dense developments,  which are causing great concern amongst residents, could happen anywhere and before you know it the whole of Brent could  become a concrete jungle!  I wish I could say with certainty that this will not happen, but the speed with which  these smaller high rises are going up, makes me and my neighbours truly fearful. The lack of transparency when making these decisions is very worrying, as they have an adverse effect on all our lives.

13) Love Where You Live:  On the one hand Brent Council is encouraging residents to "love where you live" and improve our environment and yet on the other forcing us to accept even more higher rise developments.  I know things have to change and progress, but do we have to loose our precious existing residential areas for even more high rises? Surely Brent Council should be aiming for both?

14) The Attitude of Developers: Developers everywhere are undermining and exploiting planning authorities, with planning performance agreements and other inducements.  They must be opposed and cannot continue to completely ignore the wishes of residents.

 15)  Historical Significance: High Street which runs along one side of the proposed development is of great historical significance, more so since there is little left of the old Wembley after the thatched cottage down the road was burnt down. High Street was the main street in Wembley 250 years ago and it is the only public way in Wembley which carries the name "street". As such, we ask the Council to give this due consideration and protect this area and not allow such a massive redevelopment to spoil the character of this quiet historic part of Wembley, , which is so much part of our low rise suburban area.

16)  Lower Level Affordable Housing: We of course appreciate that more houses are needed, so we propose and would be happy to support lower level affordable family accommodation perhaps some with small private gardens, as this is just the sort of dwelling which is in very short supply in the borough. The proposed plans for Heron House are excessive, damaging and totally inappropriate for the area and as such they should be rejected.

(Petition Organiser: Zerine Tata, Tokyington Ward, Email: