In this section

  • Overview
  • National and local update
  • Vulnerability to radicalisation
  • Locations where radicalisation can take place
  • Signs of exploitation
  • Case study
  • Links with other forms of exploitation
  • More information
  • Overview

    Radicalisation is the act or process through which someone comes to support terrorism and extremist ideologies associated with terrorist groups. Radicalisation is a form of exploitation which can involve people being influenced and coerced into extremism. 

    It’s helpful to be aware of these key words

    • Extremism relates to views and ideas which are opposed to British values – such as democracy, the rule of law, individual freedom, mutual respect and tolerance of difference faiths and beliefs
    • Violent extremism refers to the beliefs and actions of people who support or use violence to achieve a goal – this could be ideological, religious, political or linked to another cause
    • Terrorism involves acting or threatening to endanger lives or use serious violence towards people or property to cause intimidation and advance a cause
    • Ideology – a set of beliefs or ideas – these could be religious, political or personal, and in some cases they may be confused or unclear. 
    • people may be radicalised through being introduced to an extremist ideology
    • sometimes the reasons for radicalisation are less clear – someone’s beliefs and views may be confused or they may be driven by a specific grievance or hatred towards another person or group
    • radicalisation can happen in may ways – through the influence of people close to the person, through communication with extremist individuals and groups, and through self radicalisation (see below)
    • radicalisation is increasingly taking place online
    • radicalisation can take place over any time frame from a few days to several years
    • following an extremist cause can offer people a sense of purpose, identity and community, especially if they are experiencing difficulties and challenges in their life
    • hate and intolerance can play a role in creating the conditions for extremism and radicalisation.

    The government has developed a strategy called Prevent to stop people from being radicalised and committing terrorist acts. It provides practical help to people at risk of radicalisation, or who are being radicalised. Early identification and referral provides the best chance of stopping someone from being drawn into terrorism. Follow our reporting flowchart to find out how to refer someone into Prevent.

    If you are concerned that someone is about to travel to join a proscribed organisation or is planning to commit a criminal offence contact the police on 999.

  • National and local update
    • the UK faces threats from international terrorism, terrorism linked to Northern Ireland and right-wing extremism
    • radicalisation and terrorism are often associated with major cities, but can affect any local area and any community, especially with the internet playing an increasing role
    • in some cases people involved in acts of extremism and terrorism may have unclear motivations and may not relate to a particular ideology or political belief
    • the average age of potential attackers has lowered to people in their early twenties and vulnerability to radicalisation among adolescents and young people is a concern.

    There is greater risk of radicalisation taking place in Devon linked to

    • right wing extremism – this could be involvement with an extremist right wing group or following extremist right wing beliefs and ideologies
    • online radicalisation – Devon is a largely rural county, but the internet means that anyone, anywhere, can become radicalised
    • this includes radicalisation through the internet, chat rooms, social media and online gaming sites, which have become key places for promoting extremism – people can be radicalised by an extremist individual they meet online, or self-radicalise after viewing extremist content
    • self-initiated terrorism – there is a growing risk from people who commit a terrorist offence without support or direction from a terrorist group, potentially with limited planning and using low tech methods.
  • Vulnerability to radicalisation

    Anyone of any age, gender, ethnicity or religious belief can be radicalised. Vulnerability may be increased because of the following

    • complexity, vulnerability and unmet needs – this may include factors such as neurodiversity that, in combination with other circumstances, may heighten someone’s vulnerability
    • experiencing hardship, emotional stress and trauma
    • experiencing discrimination and harassment
    • experiencing questions around identity, meaning and belonging
    • being socially isolated – from friends, family or the community
    • experiences of fighting or living in a conflict zone.

    Most people will not become involved in terrorism. A small number of people lacking protective influences may become radicalised. In these cases, they may be attracted by the sense of purpose, status, identity, belonging and excitement that accompanies commitment to an extremist group or cause.

  • Locations where radicalisation can take place

    People can be exposed to radicalising influences in many places and settings, although they are more likely to be exposed to these influences in the following locations:

    • the internet, particularly social media sites, online extremist sites and gaming platforms
    • events hosting extremist speakers or discussing extremist views
    • the home – a family member or friend may hold extremist views
    • social or religious groups.
  • Signs of exploitation

    Common signs that may indicate someone is being exploited include those listed below.

    This not an exhaustive list and warning signs will show differently in each person. It’s important to explore all concerns over someone’s behaviour and personal circumstances and consider whether they could be signs of exploitation.

    Appearance and behaviour

    • becoming isolated from family and friends
    • becoming more secretive, especially around internet use
    • centring day-to-day behaviour and activities around an ideology, group or cause
    • changing appearance and clothing to associate with a group or cause
    • developing a fixation on a particular subject.
    • associating with different friends, including friends met online

    Thoughts and communication

    • becoming more argumentative and domineering when expressing viewpoints
    • being quick to criticise alternative views and opinions, and being closed to new ideas
    • expressing intolerance or hatred of other people or communities
    • expressing justification for offending on behalf of a group, cause or ideology
    • expressing mistrust of mainstream media, belief in conspiracy theories, anger about government policies
    • expressing sympathy for extremist causes, glorifying violence, or promoting violent extremist messages
    • expressing thoughts about harming, or using violence towards, others
    • talking as if from a script
    • using hate terms to exclude others or incite violence.

    Other signs

    • accessing extremist websites and social media sites
    • attending meetings held by extremist groups or hosting extremist speakers
    • possessing materials or symbols associated with an extremist cause
    • possessing firearms or other weapons, or showing an interest in obtaining them.

    More information about identifying signs of radicalisation can be found on the Act Early website.

  • Case study


    Connor regularly attended a local youth group and enjoyed discussing computer games with his friends. A youth worker at the group became concerned after overhearing Connor’s conversations, in which he appeared to express extremist views about individuals of other ethnicities and religions.

    The youth worker contacted Connor’s father to ask about Connor’s behaviour at home. Connor’s father said that Connor was secretive about his internet usage, and spent large amounts of time playing games online. Whilst playing these games Connor would talk to people through his gaming headset late into the night.

    The youth worker became concerned that the people Connor had met through gaming websites were exposing him to extremist views. They decided to send an email to the Devon and Cornwall Prevent team, expressing their concerns and seeking support.

    After receiving this email the Prevent team contacted the youth worker, Connor’s father, and Connor’s college to gather more information about his behaviour. From this, they decided to refer him into Channel, a government programme for supporting those at risk of radicalisation. This programme helped Connor to question the right-wing ideologies that he had been exposed to and provided him with practical and pastoral support.

    As a result Connor was able to challenge his views towards other members of society. He enrolled in a local cadet force and created plans to join the armed forces after college. In light of these positive outcomes, it was felt that Channel had successfully prevented Connor from being radicalised, and he was able to exit the programme.

    This case study is based on a number of real cases which have occurred in Devon. In the interests of confidentiality, all names and other identifying features are fictional.

  • Links with other forms of exploitation
    • like other forms of exploitation, radicalisation can happen when someone grooms another person and takes advantage of their vulnerability
    • people who have been radicalised may have been exposed to other forms of grooming and exploitation
    • radicalisation can happen as part of a gang if the identity of the gang is linked to extremist beliefs and ideologies
    • radicalisation can be linked to hatred and intolerance, including hate crime
    • hate crime refers to criminal offences motivated by hostility or prejudice towards a person’s race, ethnicity, religion, belief, sexual orientation, transgender identity or disability.
  • More information

    The following resources and websites provide further information about radicalisation