These statistics have been collated from a variety of different sources, which have differing ways of categorising and describing ‘race’ and ethnicity. (For example, some sources differentiate between particular black ‘groups’ whilst others do not. Some sources may just use the term Asian, others may differentiate between different Asian groups or different religious groups.) Where we have used other organisations’ statistics, we have followed the categorisation/names used by them – which means that there may be inconsistencies in terminology within and between pages.
A terrorist is a person who uses unlawful violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.
Details as to how the security services, government and Metropolitan Police view a terror threat at any one time can be found here:
The use of ‘terror’ can be adopted by a range of groups: for example, during the late twentieth century sections of the Irish Republican movement used bombings and other terror tactics in Northern Ireland and on the British mainland; sections of the Animal Liberation Front have also adopted violent direct action which endangered life; in the early 1970s, extremist radical anarchist groups (such as the Angry Brigade in the UK) carried out attacks and kidnappings across Europe. However, more recently, terrorism in the UK has been associated with Islamist groups and individuals. Following the 9/11 attacks in the USA and serious incidents in the UK during the 2000s such as the 7/7 attack in 2005, governments have concentrated their efforts against Islamist terror. And as shown below most of the recent legislation has affected those from a BME background. However, since 2020 a number of policing and security authorities have claimed that the fastest growing terror threat in the UK is now from the far Right.
Governments have the responsibility for keeping all citizens safe, but often, because of a lack of information (groups are secretive) and because a particular grouping is supposedly responsible for incidents, a whole community – sometimes an ethnic or religious group – can come under suspicion. This can lead to accusations of racial profiling and discrimination against individuals. It can also mean that an incident can, because of public perception, be wrongly attributed to a particular group, hence enhancing public fear and hostility.
Several anti-terrorism laws have been enacted in the 21st century, each raising concerns about the extent to which they have curtailed civil-liberties and impacted disproportionately on BME and especially Muslim communities.
S44 of the Terrorism Act 2000
S44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 gave police the power, in designated areas, to stop and search an individual without having any reasonable suspicion that they had committed an offence.
In 2010, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that stop-and-searches under s44 were illegal as there were inadequate safeguards against abuse.
S47A of the Terrorism Act 2000 (Remedial) Order 2011
S44 was repealed and replaced by s47A in 2011. Under the section, the police can stop and search someone if they suspect an act of terrorism is about to take place (after authorisation by a senior officer).
This power has not been used except in 2017, following the Parsons Green attack in London. On 15 September 2017, four forces authorised the use of these powers, leading to a total of 128 stops. These resulted in four arrests. Government statistics show that 20% of those stopped were from BME backgrounds.
Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000
Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 gives police the power to stop people at airports and ports without any reasonable suspicion that they have committed an offence.
Statistics show that in the year ending 31 March 2020, this power was used to stop 8,311 people. Of those stopped, 76% identified as from BME communities.
The number of detentions following examination under schedule 7 in this period was 2,088, an increase of 14% from 1,832 in the year ending March 2019. The rate of detention following an examination also increased to 25% of those interviewed being detained, up from 16% in the previous year.
Analysis by the organisation Cage has shown that of the 419,000 people stopped under Schedule 7 between 2009 and 2019, only 30 were convicted, a conviction rate of 0.007%.
S43 of the Terrorism Act 2000
Under section 43, police officers can stop and search a person who they ‘reasonably suspect’ is involved in terrorist activity. This power does not need authorisation from senior police officers.
Between 2011 and 2015, statistics show that there was a 64% reduction in the use of s43 stops in the Metropolitan police area, but there was then an increase in the next three years, up to a total of 808 stops in 2018. In the year ending 31 March 2020, 589 persons were stopped and searched under s43 – note that this data excludes ‘vehicle only’ stops and searches.
In the year ending 31 March 2020 s43 stop and searches in the Met area led to 51 arrests, meaning 9% of stops resulted in arrest. Statistics show that of cases in which the person’s ethnicity was reported 62% of those stopped under these powers were from BME backgrounds.
Prevent is the government’s counter-radicalisation programme. The programme was originally launched in 2003 as part of the CONTEST counter-terrorism strategy created in response to the ‘9/11’ terror attacks.. In the UK, people deemed vulnerable to ‘radicalisation’ are referred to the programme. The programme has been criticised for targeting BME people, particularly those who are also Muslims.
Many referrals to the programme lead to no action being taken. Police figures show that between 2007 and 2014 80% of referrals to Prevent were set aside. This has continued, as statistics show that in the year ending March 2019, of 5,738 referrals to Prevent, the majority (58%) had no ideological concern identified following an initial assessment. Moreover, only 10% ultimately received specialist intervention in relation to radicalisation concerns, meaning the scheme has a false positive rate of 90%.
Many have seen this as indicative of the fact that referrals are often made on the basis of racial stereotyping and prejudice, rather than genuine evidence of extreme views. Maina Kiai, the UN’s special rapporteur on the right to freedom of assembly described the Prevent strategy as ‘dividing, stigmatising and alienating segments of the population’, and suggested that it ‘could end up promoting extremism, rather than countering it’.
In 2017/18, of the 7,318 individuals referred to Prevent, 44% were referred for concerns related to Islamist ‘extremism’ and 18% were referred for concerns related to right wing ‘extremism’. Statistics for 2018/19 list 24% of referrals as related to Islamist radicalisation, 24% as related to right-wing radicalisation and 38% due to ‘mixed, unstable or unclear ideology’.
The Prevent Duty
The Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 made it a statutory requirement for public sector workers to refer students suspected of extremist ideas to the government’s de-radicalisation programme, known as Channel, requiring workers from the child care sector up to university level to identify apparent signs of extremism in their students. In the year ending 31 March 2019 58% of referrals in this period were for those aged 20 and younger, as shown by government statistics.
In 2020 a report by SOAS based on a survey of the views of 2,022 students attending 132 universities, found that Prevent inhibits discussions of identity and religion on campus and reinforces negative stereotypes of Islam and Muslims. 20% of students surveyed suggested that Islam is not compatible with British values; among those which are supportive of Prevent, the figure rises to 35%. The National Union of Students also published research in 2018 which found that in a survey of Muslim students one-third of respondents felt negatively affected by Prevent. 43% of those who reported being affected felt unable to express their views or be themselves as a result. Qualitative research, for example by Rights and Security International, moreover, has found that Muslim children have been disproportionately impacted by the strategy and fear being reported for expressing their political and religious views, creating a significant effect on free speech among Muslim children and a detrimental impact on their right to education. An IRR briefing paper, Prevent and the Children’s Rights Convention, explores this further.
The Prevent duty also affects medical professionals. A study published in 2020 by Medact found that in some NHS trusts this ‘false positive’ rate – the rate of referrals not progressing to the Channel process – was as high as 98%. The report also found that people of Asian backgrounds were reported to Prevent 4 times more often than non-Asians, and Muslims were reported 8 times more than non-Muslims. The study also concluded that mental health patients were disproportionately represented among Prevent referrals, with a sample of four mental health trusts showing 89 referrals to Prevent in the two years to March 2019, compared with a combined 90 referrals from 18 non-specialist trusts in the same period. More than half of the Prevent referrals in the case studies gathered by Medact involved pre-existing mental health conditions, including schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder.
A paper published by Warwick University in 2019, furthermore, investigated the opinions of NHS workers and found that only 47% of respondents agreed that Prevent is a genuine safeguarding procedure, and only 48% agreed that Prevent belongs in healthcare.