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Ian Acheson

Senior Adviser at the Counter Extremism Project


Ian Acheson is an Ulsterman with a long involvement in prison security and counter-terrorism. In 1994, he joined Her Majesty’s Prison Service as a prison officer, rising rapidly to governor rank. Ian has extensive involvement in operational command of serious prison incidents, hostage negotiation, and counter-terrorism policy and practice relating to the threat posed by IRA terrorists and, lately, the very different challenge posed by Islamist extremists in custody.

On leaving the prison service, Ian was appointed director of the international prison charity Prisoners Abroad, supporting British citizens detained overseas. A spell as head of region for the government’s Youth Justice Board in Southwest England led to a senior Civil Service role with the Home Office as director of community safety with responsibility for running the UK government’s counter-terrorism strategy, CONTEST, in Southwest England. Ian left public service in 2016 as executive director and chief operating officer for the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

In 2015, Ian led an independent review of Islamist extremism in prisons and probation in the UK. Ian has advised governments in Europe, Asia, North Africa and the Middle East on countering violent extremism. He currently works as a senior adviser to the US-based Counter Extremism Project.