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Domestic violence 'significant' in radicalisation referrals, CTP reveals

New research has revealed strong links between mental health issues - including childhood trauma - and those vulnerable to radicalisation.

Domestic abuse is a significant factor in people referred to the Prevent programme because of their potential radicalisation by extremists.

New research, commissioned by Counter Terrorism Policing (CTP), has revealed a ‘striking prevalence’ of domestic abuse in the lives of those referred to Prevent as being vulnerable to radicalisation.

The study, comes as anti-terror teams continue to establish the circumstances leading up to a man blowing himself up inside a taxi at a hospital in Liverpool on Remembrance Day.

Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner Emily Spurrell warned extremist groups were increasingly seeking out people who were suffering from depression or trauma-linked illnesses.

She told Police Oracle: “We still don’t know what the motivation was. But I do think we need to have a real conversation on mental health and the impact that’s having. There’s a big link between vulnerability and mental health.”

She warned: “There are people out there who will target the vulnerable.”

The CTP research, named ‘Project Starlight’ is the result of extensive collaboration between CTP, the Home Office, and a wide variety of charitable, community and third-sector organisations.

It analysed referrals made to the counter-radicalisation Prevent programme in 2019, as part of CTP’s commitment to understanding the complex vulnerabilities that can be linked to extremism.

Out of a sample of 3,045 individuals, just over a third (1076) had a link to a domestic abuse incident, either as an offender, victim, witness or a combination of all three.

This is significantly higher than the prevalence of domestic abuse in the wider population, according to the best available estimates.

Incidents ranged from a child witnessing domestic abuse in their household, to individuals with convictions for attempted murder.

It’s not the first time anti-terrorism leads have highlighted the link.

In August, the Prevent team lead, Chief Constable Simon Cole, revealed 70% of referrals had mental health issues and that its three hubs were regularly supporting people who had not had any contact with health services despite having significant issues.

National Co-ordinator for Prevent, Detective Chief Superintendent Vicky Washington said: “This initial research has resulted in some statistically significant data which cannot, and should not, be ignored.

“Project Starlight has indicated a clear overrepresentation of domestic abuse experiences in the lives of those who are referred to us for safeguarding and support.

“It is absolutely vital that we use this information to shape what we do, and strengthen our response across all of policing, not just in counter terrorism.”

In light of these initial findings, CTP will now use the research to inform ongoing work alongside wider safeguarding practitioners, as well as using it to improve understanding and training for both counter terrorism and police safeguarding practitioners.

Det Chief Supt Washington added: “It is more important than ever that we look beyond traditional boundaries of what we do, and work towards understanding the bigger picture.

“What Project Starlight demonstrates is that vulnerabilities associated with radicalisation are complex and far-reaching.

“This research is not about stigmatising anyone or claiming that one factor necessarily links to another, it’s about us doing all we can to strengthen our understanding and approach, to ensure the right support is in place.”

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