Counter Terrorism Policing has warned that the threat from terrorism has not been diminished by the global pandemic, despite the Covid-19 lockdown continuing to reduce the number of terrorism-related arrests.
The Home Office’s quarterly release of statistics relating to the police’s use of powers under the Terrorism Act 2000 revealed that there were a total of 215 arrests for terrorism-related activity in the year ending 30 September 2020, 18% (48) fewer than the number in the previous 12-month period.
This continues the downwards trend seen in the last quarterly statistical release in September, which is largely due to an overall reduction in crime since the beginning of the national lockdown in March.
Senior National Coordinator for Counter Terrorism Policing, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon, said: “We frequently use non-terrorism legislation to make arrests and disrupt terrorist activity, and that overall reduction in crime has had an impact on this activity.
“But I want to remind everyone that we have recently seen the UK terror threat raised to Severe, meaning an attack is highly likely, and although Covid-19 understandably remains at the forefront of people’s minds we must be vigilant against more than just the virus.
“As we move out of the tightest lockdown restrictions into a busy shopping period in the run-up to Christmas, we want the public to join the police, security staff and retail workers in a collective community effort to minimise the chance of attack.
“When we say that ‘Communities defeat terrorism’ it is not just a catchphrase. We know from experience that public information and action helps saves lives and lead to the significant arrests detailed in these statistics.
To learn more about the role that you can play in defeating terrorism, free online training is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/act-awareness-elearning. Taking just 45 minutes to complete, the online training provides the latest advice from CT experts, including how to react in the unlikely event of a terror attack and how to spot and report suspicious activity and behaviour.
One of the most concerning aspects of today’s statistics was that children under the age of 18 were the only age category which saw an increase – rising from 11 to 17 in total. That is a total of 8% of all arrests, which has risen from just 4% in the previous 12months.
“Unfortunately we are seeing increasing numbers of young people arrested in relation to terrorism,” added DAC Haydon.
“But it doesn’t have to be this way. Ideally we would identify when a young person is being led down the path towards terrorism activity and use the Prevent programme to try and put them on a different path.
“Our research tells us that parents, family members and friends are the first to see the changes in behaviour which might indicate that a loved one is being radicalised. But currently just 2% of people we help through the Prevent programme come to the programme because of concerns raised by those same people who know them best.
“That is why we recently launched a new website and helpline – www.actearly.uk – designed specifically to offer advice and support for parents and family members who think their loved one might be following a dangerous path towards extremism.
“Asking for help is a difficult and emotional step, but we must see it for what it is – action which won’t ruin their lives but may well save them.”
If you are worried that someone you know is being radicalised, visit www.actearly.uk
For help and advice visit www.actearly.uk, or call the national Police Prevent Advice Line on 0800 011 3764, in confidence, and our specially trained Prevent officers will listen carefully to your concerns.