Measuring radicalisation: risk assessment conceptualisations and practice in England and Wales
by Rita Augestad Knudsen, NUPI and C-REX
Individual ‘radicalisation’- extremism- and terrorism-related risk assessment tools have become increasingly central instruments of counter-terrorism. The scholarship on such tools, however, is still its infancy, and remains concentrated on methodological issues and on identifying the ‘best’ indicator list for carrying out assessments. This article takes a different approach, and examines England and Wales’ Extremism Risk Guidance (ERG22+) and Vulnerability Assessment Framework (VAF), concentrating on the 22 risk indicators that both tools share, and their current uses in counter-terrorism. The article explores the conceptualisations of ‘radicalisation’ that emerges from the tools’ indicators and from their actual uses at two different ‘ends’ of England and Wales’ counter-terrorism system; to assess sentenced terrorism offenders in prison, and to assess non-criminal individuals referred over concerns over their possible ‘radicalisation’. The article hence offers both a conceptual clarification of the ideas of ‘radicalisation’ underpinning counter-terrorism policies in England and Wales, and reflections on the operational utility of the present use of the ERG and VAF indicators. While not rejecting the possible value of specialised terrorism-related individual risk assessment tools, the article finds that the conceptualisations underpinning the tools’ indicators and their use make their present counter-terrorism roles questionable.