Anti-extremism programme Prevent sees referrals hit 7,500 a year

Critics of Prevent describe the scheme as heavy-handed and 'toxic' Credit: PA

More than 20 cases a day were referred to the government's controversial Prevent anti-extremism programme, according to new figures.

The latest figures show that in 2015/16 there were around 7,500 referrals to the scheme, which earmarks people considered vulnerable to radical ideologies for possible intervention.

Of the referrals, in cases where an ideology was identified and recorded, just over half (54%) related to Islamist extremism.

Meanwhile, nearly one in 10 referrals was linked to far-right extremism.

The figures follow the introduction of the new Prevent 'duty' which requires organisations such as schools and local authorities to "have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism".

Critics of Prevent describe the scheme as heavy-handed and "toxic", and many have called for it to be independently reviewed.

But Simon Cole of the National Police Chiefs' Council argues the programme is "absolutely fundamental" to Britain's counter-terrorism efforts.

Concerns have grown over s right-wing extremist threat following the murder of MP Jo Cox Credit: PA

The scheme has been credited with playing a role in disrupting more than 150 attempted journeys to the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, and is also handling a growing number of cases linked to far-right extremism.

Meanwhile, the number of people referred to the scheme linked to far-right extremism has grown in some parts of the country.

Authorities highlighted concerns that there are signs the threat from the extreme far right could be growing following the conviction of Thomas Mair for the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox.

Earlier this month National Action became the first extreme right-wing group to be banned as a terrorist organisation.