The Home Office is seeking an independent reviewer for its anti-radicalisation strategy Prevent, after being forced to remove Lord Carlile from the post last year.
The department appointed Alexander Carlile QC, the former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, to lead a review of the programme last summer, but removed him four months later following a court challenge.
Rights Watch UK, a legal and human rights charity, brought the legal challenge over the Home Office’s failure to hold an open recruitment process for the role.
The Home Office launched an open competition for the role yesterday.
The successful candidate will look at whether Prevent, which requires schools, universities and other institutions to report people they suspect are vulnerable to extremism, is fit for purpose and operating effectively. Critics have said the strategy, which came into force in 2012, could encourage discrimination or have a chilling effect on free speech.
Announcing the recruitment process, the Home Office said: “The appointment of the next reviewer will be through a full and open competition. This will involve an advisory assessment panel, with an independent chair, that will review the applications and interview shortlisted candidates.”
Last year Rights Watch UK called on home secretary Priti Patel to instigate a public appointments process, in line with cabinet manual guidelines, to find Carlile’s replacement.
“That process must be open and transparent. It is critical that the next reviewer is genuinely independent and has the faith of those impacted by it. There are established processes to help achieve that outcome, and they should be adhered to,” Yasmine Ahmed, RWUK’s executive director, said after the December court victory.
“It is important that the home secretary now takes the time to ensure mistakes which led to Lord Carlile’s appointment are not repeated,” she said.
As well as the recruitment process itself, RWUK said it was concerned by the fact that Carlile had previously expressed support for the Prevent strategy, and that this meant he was not truly independent.
Ahmed said Carlile’s “long-standing objection to any kind of criticism or overhaul of Prevent [was] no secret” and that this meant “the review lacked buy-in and cooperation from those it most needed to engage”.
RWUK had called for a judicial review of the role, which was granted in the December court case, but the government declined to defend its appointment and stood Carlile down instead.
An advert for the role, posted on the government’s public appointments website, calls for “a highly talented individual of unquestionable independence, integrity and credibility, who can demonstrate his or her ability to exercise sound judgment and analysis at pace and under pressure, with close public and ministerial scrutiny”.
To fill the part-time role, which comes with a pro-rata salary of £140,000 a year, applicants must be “confident engaging with a wide range of interested parties, from civil society and community organisations, to ministers and local practitioners”, the ad says.
And they must be able to “operate fairly and impartially in a political environment”, have high-level experience in counter-terrorism or related policy areas, and have the “personal resilience required to operate calmly under pressure”.