Six men from Birmingham have been charged with terrorism offences following raids on houses a few days ago. Four have been charged with preparing for an act of terrorism in the UK, and two with failing to disclose information. They will appear in court tomorrow.
It is a timely reminder of the ongoing threat from terrorism in the UK, but a reassuring sign of police arrests well in advance of an attack.
There is more information about the arrests here.
A new report by the respected Home Affairs Select Committee has suggested moving CT policing responsibility away from the Met and to the new National Crime Agency when it is set up. It argues this on the grounds that this would reduce political interference in the affairs of the Met, important in the light of the phone hacking scandal.
While in theory it might make sense for many of the ‘national’ responsibilities of the Met to be taken on either by a national agency or by individual police forces, in reality the shift is not straightforward. The Met has built up significant expertise in the area of CT and I fear that this would be lost in the bureaucratic re-organisation. Knowledge sits in the heads of individuals, relationships are built between specific people, and organisational cultures play a role in embedding certain working approaches that contribute to success. None of these things can be simply packed in a box, moved to another office, and put to work in a new setting.
The Met has done a fantastic job of keeping London and the UK safe from the threat of terrorism in the last 10 years. No-one doubts the importance of an independent police force, but playing around with CT policing is not the way to go about getting it.
No decisions will be made until the London Olympic Games have taken place. Let’s hope a more sensible approach can be found in the meantime.
It is sad to hear the news that a British woman has been kidnapped in Kenya. Her husband was killed, before she was taken away over the weekend. There are unconfirmed reports that the couple are David and Judith Tebbutt, but the UK Foreign Office has not released the victims’ names. They were staying at the Kiwayu Safari village in Kenya, located near the border with Somali. It is not yet known whether the motives for the kidnapping are financial or political.
This case reminds us that the threat from kidnapping continues. There is no complete data set to show the number of Britons who are kidnapped each year. The Foreign Office records cases it works on or is aware of, but this is thought to account for a small minority of cases. This is because they do not tend to be involved where the motive is financial – the bulk of kidnaps – because they cannot pay a ransom and the cases are therefore handled privately. These cases also tend to remain out of the spotlight because it is important to downplay the ‘value’ of the hostage in order to secure a swift and safe release.
The absence of a dataset is a real problem – it means we don’t really know the scale of the threat, how it has changed, or where it might develop next. Hostage UK has been looking to bring together data from official sources and private security companies. But until that is possible, we really don’t know as much as we should do about this terrible crime.
Today I have been in Brussels for the launch of the European Commission’s new Radicalisation Awareness Network. It is an interesting initiative that paves the way for an EU-wide, systematic, and cross-sector approach to ensuring that those on the frontline – teachers, doctors, police officers, and social workers – not only understand their role within the wider framework of tackling terrorism, but have the chance to share their experiences and feed into policy making.
This kind of thing happens little enough at national or even local levels. So for the European Commission to be spearheading this initiative is important.
There are of course many questions that remain: how do you ensure its independence, how do you make sure it engages the right people, can it be properly resourced to deliver the right products? All this remains to be seen, but it is something to watch in the coming months.
I contributed a piece to a RUSI collection exploring what new insights had been gleaned from the coroner’s inquests into the 7/7 bombings. My piece looked at the bombers themselves – their personal lives, relationships, behaviours, and actions. You can download the report here.
Over the last decade, many millions of pounds have been spent on efforts to prevent radicalisation. This ‘upstream’ work has included everything from intense personalised programmes with young people deemed to be ‘at risk’ of radicalisation, through to broader projects to build community resilience and provide positive alternatives to youth who might otherwise be attracted to radical violent rhetoric.
But how do we know if we are making a difference?
This paper puts forward some practical ideas about how governments could evaluate these projects and activities. I’m busy putting the theory into practice with some pan-European evaluation work over the next few months…
Here is a paper I wrote outlining the role of civil society in tackling radicalisation. As we approach the 10th anniversary of 9/11, it’s important to continue striving for better government-civil society cooperation if we are to be effective in our responses to terrorism. The paper includes a series of case studies of projects and initiatives that seek to embody this kind of partnership approach.