Counter terrorism policing warns of threat from far-right and a no-deal Brexit
Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, the head of Counter Terrorism Policing, has warned of a “far right drift into extreme right-wing terrorism”.
He said while the far right terrorist activity is still a “relatively small threat”, it is also something “we’ve got to pay very close attention to in this country”.
He also told the BBC that a no-deal Brexit was “incredibly concerning” for policing and it could have “potential to divide communities and set communities against each other”.
Mr Basu explained that the spike in hate crime following the EU referendum has “never really receded”.
“We want people to report anything that we think is going to lead to violent confrontation and people need to calm down and understand that we are paying very close attention to that and we will stop it wherever we see it,” he said.
There has been a marked rise in the number of suspected terrorist activities under investigation.
Mr Basu said that counter-terrorism officers were “currently running more than 700 live investigations nationwide”, a rise from around 500 in March 2017.
And there have been 18 terrorist attacks prevented in less than two years, since that time.
He also confirmed that 14 of the attacks stopped since 2017 involved Islamist suspects, and he was still concerned about radicalised fighters possibly returning from abroad.
The importance of the public’s support in disrupting terrorist activity was key, said Mr Basu, with “more than 22 per cent of all reports from the public producing intelligence which is helpful to police”.
He was speaking at the launch of a 60-second counter-terrorism film on Wednesday (January 23), which is to be shown in 120 cinemas across the UK over the next eight weeks.
The film is “based on real-life foiled plots, which will show examples of terrorist-related suspicious activity and behaviour, as well as attack planning methodology”.
It is part of a new public information campaign encouraging people to report suspicious behaviour and activity online through Action Counters Terrorism and on a confidential hotline.
The film is a sequel to last year’s Communities Defeat Terrorism campaign.
Mr Basu said: “Thankfully, we did not see the horrors of 2017 repeated last year, but we should not be complacent enough to think the terrorist threat has diminished – the UK threat level remains at ‘severe’, meaning an attack is highly likely.
“We have been emphasising for some time that communities defeat terrorism, and the fact that more and more reports from the public provide information that is useful to our officers demonstrates this.
“Despite this increasing support, I know some people are still reluctant to speak to us. To them I say, reporting your concerns to us won’t ruin lives, but it might save them.”
He added: “Like other criminals, terrorists need to plan and that creates opportunities for police and the security services to discover and stop these attacks before they happen.
“But we need your help to exploit these opportunities, so if you see or hear something unusual or suspicious trust your instincts and ACT by reporting it in confidence by phone or online.”
“That could be someone buying or storing chemicals, fertilisers or gas cylinders for no obvious reasons, or receiving deliveries for unusual items, it could be someone embracing extremist ideology, or searching for such material online.
“This new film has been made to try and help people understand recent terrorist attack-planning methods, but also to demonstrate that each report from the public can be one vital piece of a much larger picture.
“The important thing for people to remember is that no report is a waste of our time, trust your instincts and tell us if something doesn’t feel right.”
Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: “The threat from terrorism is one of the starkest we face, and we have all seen the horrific consequences of a terrorist incident.
“With the support of the public, our police and intelligence agencies work tirelessly to keep our communities safe. We all have a role to play in confronting those who seek to do us harm.
“Life really doesn’t have a rewind button so, if something doesn’t feel right, trust your instincts and report any suspicious activity or behaviour as soon as you can.”