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Last updated: 05.03.15

'Perspectives on Radicalisation' - Dr Dave Sloggett

Summary of Dr Dave Sloggett's presentation at the Safeguarding Children e-Academy Advisory Panel 2015:

Dr Sloggett began his presentation by clarifying that the key to understanding pathways to extremism is not to be stereotypical and to look at the wider picture. When talking of radicalisation society tends to associate the term with Muslims, but actually the situation in Britain is very dynamic and there is also a significant threat from the extreme-far right and dissident republicans.

The public perception of counter-terrorism is often based upon TV shows like Spooks, or the James Bond movies where there are lots of pieces of a puzzle that fit together to paint a picture of intelligence and once this picture is complete the attack is prevented.

In reality, the pieces aren?t made to fit into place. Everyone interprets information differently, there is no simple picture and mistakes are made. Therefore, the best way to prevent terrorism is to prevent a person starting on the journey to extremism in the first place.

Following the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, government rhetoric has changed to reflect the acceptance that there is no guarantee that all terror attacks can be stopped. There is consensus that the focus must become preventing people becoming radicalised in the first place.

Dr Sloggett reasons that it is a person's vulnerabilities that start them on the journey of being radicalised and the process of radicalising vulnerable people is a form of ?grooming?.

The nature of grooming has changed dramatically in a short space of time. Ten years ago the process was facilitated by physical contact and meeting someone in person. Now it is believed 90% of the radicalisation process happens online.

A clever groomer exercises empathy to encourage the victim to speak their grievances and explain why they feel disenchanted with society. This ultimately gives the groomer all the information they need to understand and manipulate the victim. Safeguarding and protecting these vulnerable people is key to preventing radicalisation.

Dave?s Snakes and Ladders board

There is no standard model that shows how someone becomes radicalised and all extremists will have unique experiences. To convey the process of radicalisation in a simple way, Dr Sloggett uses the game of snakes and ladders as an example for a variety of individual journeys.

Before the board is the 'pool of vulnerability' where people are at risk of picking up the dice. Once the person is on the board they can embark on a number of journeys, some may take only a matter of weeks whereas others can take months to several years.

One of the journeys often taken involves a 'defining moment' represented by the large ladder. The 'defining moment' is triggered by something that happens and a person thinks 'enough is enough', I must act.

After this defining moment ?cognitive dissidence? kicks in and a person will only listen to their own world-view. Any argument slightly contrary to this is immediately disregarded. At this point nothing can persuade them otherwise and they will end the board by carrying out an attack.

Preventing an attack is all about the snakes on the board disrupting people's journey. As people move along the board they become increasingly vulnerable to finishing the journey at the top.

The key role safeguarding has to play is getting in as early as possible to safeguard vulnerable people from entering onto, or progressing along, the board.

Did you know we've worked with Dr Dave Sloggett and safeguarding boards to develop an online course around Radicalisation, Extremism and Prevent?

Click here to find out more.