I am delighted to make this contribution to the first TINYg newsletter. I hope you find the content interesting, thought provoking and helpful as each one of us adapts to a very different world to the one we were living in just six months ago.
Whilst life as we know it may have changed almost beyond recognition, the terrorist threat is ever-present. Just as we all have adapted to life with coronavirus, so will terrorists.
In the UK, the greatest threat remains lone actors acting independently of groups – this is the case for both right wing and Islamist terrorism. During the pandemic, we have seen right wing groups and Islamist groups, such as Daesh, change their rhetoric to try to exploit coronavirus. All groups are increasing their production of propaganda and disinformation to try and exacerbate hate crime and community tensions.
That is why UK Counter Terrorism Policing’s motto – communities defeat terrorism – has never been more important. To tackle this threat requires a whole society approach involving the public, police, local authorities, businesses and the UK intelligence agencies. Police in the UK continue to work alongside key security partners, and in April, MI5 formally took the lead intelligence role on right wing terrorism – the largest new addition to their responsibilities since 2007.
The global pandemic has posed another challenge here in the UK – the removal of the safety net that schools, colleges and social workers provide for young and vulnerable people. The combination of a reduction in protection and support available and terrorists exploiting the circumstances is creating an environment where a small number of vulnerable people are more likely to be drawn towards terrorist activity.
Since lockdown measures were introduced, we have seen a significant decline in referrals to Prevent – the UK government’s strategy to safeguard and support those most at risk of radicalisation.
We are working to support parents, friends and family to be aware of what young or vulnerable people in their care are looking at online – and most importantly what they can do to help if they’re worried someone they know is being radicalised.
As lockdown measures around the world are eased and our towns and cities become busier again, it is vital that we enable more people to be aware that the terrorist threat has not gone away and help them to gain an understanding of what to do if they see suspicious activity.
During the pandemic, UK Counter Terrorism Policing appealed to the public to use their time at home to take part in the Action Counters Terrorism (ACT) e-learning course. Almost 70,000 individuals signed up to be CT Citizens, taking the total number of people who have signed up to the course since it was launched two years ago to half a million. Find out how to become a CT Citizen here. This is a real asset to the police and reinforces the message that communities defeat terrorism.
Since March 2017, UK Counter Terrorism Policing and UK Intelligence Services have stopped 25 attacks. In 2019, there were 280 terrorism-related arrests and 46 people were convicted of terrorist offences.
Whilst it is right that UK policing should be proud of the role it is playing in disrupting the activities of those who seek to cause harm, we cannot be complacent. The global pandemic and other geopolitical developments across the world will continue to present new challenges and it will be up to the entire global security community to adapt and work together to respond to these.
Commissioner Ian Dyson
City of London Police and TINYg Group Patron