Counter Terrorism Policing (CTP) and the UK Intelligence Services have stopped seven late-stage terror attacks since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, leading senior police officers to warn the public not to let their guard slip during the festive period.
That takes the total number of foiled terrorism plots since March 2017 to 32 – with 18 related to Islamist extremism, 12 to Extreme Right Wing Terrorism (XRWT) and two to Left, Anarchist or Single Issue Terrorism (LASIT).
The warning comes as the Home Office’s quarterly release of statistics relating to the police’s use of powers under the Terrorism Act 2000 revealed there were a total of 188 arrests for terrorism-related activity in the year ending 30 September 2021.
The Senior National Coordinator for Counter Terrorism Policing, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon, said: “CTP and our colleagues in the security services have stopped seven terror plots in less than two years, assisted by our officers making 188 arrests in the 12 months to the end of September.
“The public will also be well aware of the fact that the UK has suffered two terror attacks in quick succession, with the national threat level raising to Severe – meaning an attack is highly likely.
“All of this combines to paint a picture of a sustained and high tempo threat, which our world-class police, security and intelligence services are doing everything in their power to combat.
“But it takes a whole society approach to effectively tackle terrorism, and co-operation between the police and the public is vital, so we need you to be vigilant, and we need you to be alert.
“As we approach the festive period, we need the public to help play their part in protecting the UK.
“That means trusting your instincts and contacting us if you see anything suspicious – we get 10,000 reports of suspected terrorist activity from the public every year and around 20% of those are useful intelligence which helps officers stop terrorists.
CT experts have highlighted one other concerning element to the latest arrest statistics, and that is despite the overall total falling to one of its lowest levels in a decade – with 28 (13%) fewer arrests than the previous 12-month period – children continue to be disproportionally represented.
Despite the overall reduction in arrests, which is largely due to an overall reduction in crime since the beginning of the national lockdown in March last year, 25 children were arrested in relation to terrorism offending – the highest number ever recorded in a 12-month period.
“We are very concerned that children are becoming an increasing proportion of our arrests,” 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 3% of people we help through Prevent come to the programme because of concerns raised by those same people who know them best.
“We urge concerned parents to visit website – 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.