Snapshot of current counter terror activity in the UK
The UK Government has released a statistical bulletin on Operation of police powers under the Terrorism Act 2000 and subsequent legislation: Arrests, outcomes, and stop and search, Great Britain, financial year ending March 2018. This bulletin provides a useful insight into current counter terrorism activity, says Roger Gomm.
There were 441 arrests for terrorism-related activity in the year ending 31 March 2018, an increase of 17 per cent compared with the 378 arrests in the previous year. This was the highest number of arrests in a year since the data collection began. The figures include:
23 arrests in connection with the Manchester Arena terrorist attack (May 22, 2017)
21 arrests in connection with the London Bridge attack (June 3, 2017)
One arrest in connection with the Finsbury Park Mosque attack (June 19, 2017)
Seven arrests in connection with the Parsons Green attack (September 15, 2017)
Of the 441 arrests for terrorism-related activity in the year ending 31 March 2018:
143 (32 per cent) resulted in a charge, of which 114 (80 per cent) were terrorism-related
250 (57 per cent) were released without charge
27 (six per cent) persons were released on bail pending further investigation
20 (five per cent) faced alternative action
One case was pending at the time of data provision (as at 13 April 2018)
Of the 114 persons charged with a terrorism-related offence, 41 had been prosecuted, of which 39 were convicted and two were found not guilty. Sixty-seven people were awaiting prosecution, three were not proceeded against, and three received other outcomes.
Eighty-one persons were tried by the Crown Prosecution Service Counter Terrorism Division (CPS CTD) for terrorism-related offences, an increase of two (three per cent) on the 79 persons tried in the previous year. Of the 81 persons proceeded against, 72 (89 per cent) were convicted. In one case the trial was not concluded owing to the death of the defendant and, in the remaining eight cases, the defendant was found not guilty.
There were 228 persons in custody in Great Britain for terrorism-related offences, an increase of 27 per cent on the 180 persons in the previous year. This continues the upward trend seen in the last few years and was the highest number of persons in custody for terrorism-related offences since the data collection began in 2009. Of those in custody, the majority (82 per cent) were categorised as holding Islamist extremist views, a further 13 per cent as holding far right-wing ideologies and six per cent other ideologies.
Of those in custody: 174 (76 per cent) had been convicted; and 54 (24 per cent) were being held on remand (held in custody until a later date when a trial or a sentencing hearing takes place).
The use of other police terrorist powers has also increased in line with the ongoing serve threat level. For example, the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) carried out 768 stop and searches under section 43 of the Terrorism Act (TACT) 2000, an increase of 70 per cent on the 453 stop and searches conducted in the previous year. The number of resulting arrests increased by 33 on the previous year, from 31 to 64. This led to an increase in the arrest rate to eight per cent in the latest year, compared with seven per cent in the previous year
In addition, the power of stop and search under section 47a of TACT 2000 was authorised for the first time (in the year to March 2018) since the threshold for use of this power was raised in 2011. There were 128 searches carried out under section 47a by the British Transport Police, North Yorkshire Police and West Yorkshire Police, which resulted in four arrests; City of London Police authorised the use of this power, but no searches were carried out.
Furthermore, the number of physical examinations of suspects under Schedule 7 of TACT 2000 in Great Britain decreased by 15 per cent when compared to the previous year, from 18,103 to 15,391 examinations, continuing the downward trend seen in recent years.
Despite there being no terrorist attacks on the UK mainland in the first quarter of 2018, the motivation to undertake similar attacks to those seen in 2017 continues and, I would suggest, the operational evidence can be seen in the statistics above.
The threat level has not reduced below severe for nearly four years and is unlikely to be decreased in the short term. Islamist extremist-inspired attacks targeting crowded places (using bladed weapons and vehicles) pose the greatest threat and, by default, are the hardest to interdict.
Threat complacency remains a concern and all agencies must continue to improve the understanding of the complete threat landscape and promote risk mitigation measures to help harden the community against low technology as well as sophisticated, and increasingly novel, attack methods.
The full report can be read here