Year In Review 2020 | Threat level increases to SEVERE | Counter Terrorism Policing

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Year In Review 2020 | Threat level increases to SEVERE

As we approach the new year and say goodbye to 2020 we wanted to look back on the role that Counter Terrorism Policing has played in protecting the public by investigating, preventing and deterring terrorist activity. This involves the launch of new campaigns, sentencing for those involved in terrorist activity and a change in the threat level…



On November 3rd, Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu announced the threat level change from SUBSTANTIAL to SERVERE as a precautionary measure following the attacks that took place in France and Austria.

Assessments of threat levels are taken by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC), part of MI5, which makes its recommendations independently from the government.

The five levels of threat set by JTAC are:


  • Low – an attack is highly unlikely
  • Moderate – an attack is possible but not likely
  • Substantial – an attack is likely
  • Severe – an attack is highly likely
  • Critical – an attack is highly likely in the near future
“Overnight, we heard the terrible news of another terrorist attack in Europe – this time in Vienna, where four people were killed.

“Our thoughts are with all of the victims, their families and loved ones of the recent attacks both in Austria and France, as well as all of the emergency service personnel who continue to respond to and investigate these atrocities.

“At this time, there is no intelligence to link any of these attacks to the UK, and officers from Counter Terrorism Policing continue to work closely with our international partners and will of course provide any assistance where we can.

“Today, the threat level from terrorism has changed from SUBSTANTIAL to SEVERE as a precautionary measure in response to the events in France and Austria. This threat level moving to SEVERE means it is highly likely that a terrorist attack could happen in the UK, but I want to stress that the change is not based on a specific threat.

“However I do urge the public to remain vigilant and to report any suspicious activity to police. Now, more than ever, we need communities to stand together and reject those who seek to sow division and hatred between us. We need communities and families to bring to our attention anyone they perceive may be vulnerable, a danger or escalating towards terrorism. Anyone with information is urged to contact police by calling 0800 789 321 or by visiting

“Whilst we want the public to remain alert, they should not be alarmed by this change in threat level. We have a variety of established operational tactics that are tried and tested, to ensure that the UK is both well prepared and protected from the threat of terrorism.

“Since 2014, when the threat level was last changed from substantial to severe, we have continued to build on our capability and enhance security arrangements against the backdrop of a consistently high level of threat. Officers work day and night to protect the public and keep them safe from the threat of terrorism and this will not change.

“We have activated the established planning mechanisms across the police service, which will lead to enhanced protection and preparedness.

“Some of this will be visible and involve additional police officers being deployed to certain places and locations, which the public can expect to see over the coming days.

“From this afternoon we will begin to increase our levels of visible patrols and implement other security and protection measures.

“We are also working closely with our local communities – businesses, faith groups and community groups across the UK to provide reassurance and seek their support and assistance in keeping the UK safe.

“As I have previously said, our efforts can only succeed where we have the support of the public – it is communities standing together that defeats terrorism.”

Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu

Head of Counter Terrorism Policing

What you can do…

If you are unsure on how to report suspicious activity, or are not sure what to look out for, visit for more information on what you can do to help protect your community.

If you are worried that someone close to you is at risk of radicalisation, visit for help and guidance on protecting those around you. 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.

Your actions can save lives.

Action Counters Terrorism