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Delete Prevent collected data, court rules against Met retaining data of Muslim child

30th Oct 2020
Delete Prevent collected data, court rules against Met retaining data of Muslim child

(Image credit:Gerd Altmann/Pixabay)

Harun Nasrullah

A schoolboy who was wrongly suspected of being radicalised and reported to the Government’s controversial Prevent Extremism scheme has won a High Court fight against the Metropolitan Police on September 24 to have his personal data deleted.

The boy, then aged 11, was reported to Prevent in 2015 after a teacher raised “misinformed” concerns in that he was ‘obsessed’ with killing then Prime Minister, David Cameron.

Prevent officers concluded, “There were no radicalisation/counter-terrorism concerns” and that his teacher’s concern’s “appeared to be a misunderstanding” before closing the case in June 2016.

But in April 2019, the Met decided to retain the boy’s (referred to in court as II) personal details on ten separate databases, some of which can be accessed by Home Office officials and several local authorities as well as counter-terrorism officers, until at least 2022.

High Court judge has ruled there is ‘no policing purpose’ for keeping the boy’s data on file. Prevent officers spoke to the boy’s mother who said her son had recently written a letter he wanted to send to Cameron which, ‘spoke of peace and unity throughout the world.’

She also said she ‘did not let him watch Game of Thrones, so he wouldn’t know anything about the violence in the show’, and told police it was ‘frightening and saddening to me that you are potentially viewing II as a possible terrorist in the future.’ The boy — who is from east London — took legal action against the Met, claiming the retention of his data was a breach of his right to privacy and a breach of the Data Protection Act.

In a witness statement, his mother described her child as “a bright young man, with plans to apply to a top university in the UK and to train to become a medical doctor.”

She added, “He is afraid that at some point in the future the untrue data may affect any potential police record searches and could give rise to further monitoring of him, and jeopardise his future prospects.”
The Met said the retention of personal data would have a “minimal impact” on him, and there was “no way” it would be shared with “any educational institution or any prospective employer.”

But II’s lawyers pointed out there had been ‘no guarantee that the data will not be disclosed to third parties’.
Justice Steyn found that “no policing purpose for continuing to hold the claimant’s data has been demonstrated” and that its retention breached II’s right to privacy and the Data Protection Act.

The judge said the Met had “underestimated the impact of the interference with the claimant’s privacy rights entailed in retaining data about his alleged views and statements when he was 11 years old.”

She added, “Retention alone means that the data can be accessed by (Metropolitan Police Service) officers, counter-terrorism officers nationally, local authorities and Home Office colleagues, across 10 databases.”

Steyn also said there was, “no guarantee that the claimant’s personal data will not be disclosed to third parties”, which she said, “engenders fear in a 16-year-old boy that he may be tagged — wrongly — as a supporter of terrorism.”

In a statement after the ruling,the child’s mother said, “A dark cloud had loomed over my family for the past five years. My son had grossly misinformed allegations cast against him that could have had the potential to destroy his future.”
“To constantly live, not knowing whether false information about your child, accessible by public bodies, would be shared, hampering his chance to live freely in a country you have always known to be home, is beyond heart-breaking.

“For us, this cloud passed, because we knew where and who to seek advice from. We were guided by a brilliant legal team — but what about those who don’t know?”

The boy’s solicitor Bharine Kalsi, of Deighton Pierce Glynn, said the ruling means, “There was ‘no policing purpose’ for the retention of data concerning II — data which allude to radicalisation, but which our client has always maintained is untrue. Today’s judgment means this data will no longer cast a worrying shadow over II’s bright future, particularly as there is no guarantee that it would not be shared with other organisations and institutions.”

He added, “It is now time for the authorities to look at their exercise of power under the Prevent strategy, which continues to unjustly target innocent individuals, in particular children from the Muslim community.”

Anas Mustapha, Advocacy organization, CAGE, Spokesperson, told The Muslim News, “The court ruling is a success against the ever expanding dragnet of Prevent. The prospect of the Police retaining records of children who have been referred to a failing programme that has up to a 95% false referral rate is alarming for any parent. In effect it is a mass profiling database which can capture those who have dissented from the ‘official’ state narrative. For this reason alone the database should not exist.”

“Referrals have been made for the most mundane of reasons such as requesting a prayer room, or supporting the Palestinian people. Recently published Government guidance has banned anti-capitalist rhetoric in the classroom, referring to it as an ‘extreme political stance’, in an effect to stifle any critique of the Government. While the court judgment is a step forward, Prevent-think has seeped into all aspects of public policy and we must continue challenging it robustly and call for an end to Prevent and the dismantling of the discriminatory and counterproductive counter-terrorism and counter extremism infrastructure.

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Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence event is to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to society. Over 850 people from diverse background, Muslim and non-Muslim, attended the gala dinner.

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