Reducing the risk to the public and preventing safe spaces for terrorists to operate are at the heart of an updated counter-terrorism strategy launched by the Home Secretary today.
The threat from terrorism is shifting and evolving in the UK and globally. A marked shift was demonstrated by the appalling attacks in London and Manchester in 2017 which cost the lives of 36 innocent people and changed the lives of many more.
It prompted a fundamental review of the UK’s counter-terrorism strategy – CONTEST – to respond to the scale of the threat and the speed with which plots are now developing.
The result is a new, more agile, flexible and co-ordinated approach designed to better prevent, detect and disrupt terrorist attacks, and where attacks get through, to limit the impact and recover swiftly.
Central to the new strategy is working in partnership at international, national and local level, between government, agencies, the private sector and communities.
Delivering his first keynote speech on security to an audience of community leaders, academics and counter-terrorism experts, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said:
As Home Secretary my priority will always be to keep our country safe. The threat from terrorism is one of the starkest we face and it is clear there has been a step change.
The biggest threat is from Islamist terrorism particularly from Daesh, but extreme right-wing terrorism is also an increasing threat. Both exploit grievances, distort the truth, and undermine the values that hold us together.
As the threat evolves so must our response. Ultimately, our approach is about ensuring that there are no safe spaces for terrorists to operate – internationally, in the UK or online.
Our greatest strength lies not only in what we do but who we are and the values and freedoms we hold dear. That is why everyone has a part to play in confronting terrorism. I want to say to all those who stand up against all forms of extremism that this government stands with you. I stand with you. But there is more for us all to do.
The counter-terrorism strategy will be underpinned by new legislation to enable the police and security services to disrupt terrorist threats earlier. This legislation will:
- amend existing terrorism offences to update them for the digital age and to reflect contemporary patterns of radicalisation and to close gaps in their scope, including making it an offence to repeatedly view streamed video content online
- strengthen the sentencing framework for terrorism, including by increasing the maximum penalty for certain offences, to ensure that the punishment properly reflects the crime and to better prevent re-offending
- enable further terrorism offences committed overseas to be prosecuted in the UK courts
Responding to the recommendations of MI5 and the counter-terrorism police’s Operational Improvement Review into the 2017 terrorist attacks, which was overseen by David Anderson, new multi-agency approaches – initially in London, Manchester and the West Midlands – involve MI5 and the police using and sharing information more widely, working with partners such as local authorities to improve our understanding of those at risk of involvement in terrorism and enable a wider range of interventions.
Through Prevent, the government, local authorities, police and communities will continue to safeguard and support vulnerable people from the risk of being drawn into terrorism, working with a wide network of partners to prevent radicalisation and build resilience.
Work to enable those who have already engaged in terrorism to withdraw and rehabilitate will be further developed, including through the expansion of the Desistance and Disengagement Programme, a new element of Prevent.
The government will work more closely with the private sector on a range of issues including protecting our economic and physical infrastructure, gaining faster alerts to suspicious purchases, continuing to make it difficult for terrorists to use the internet for propaganda and ensuring we have critical access to communications.
Just as terrorists seek to exploit technology, the government will harness developments in technology including machine learning and quantum computing which have the potential to dramatically change and enhance counter-terror operational capabilities.
The Home Secretary also reaffirmed his commitment to the UK’s leading role internationally in tackling terrorism – committing to the Global Coalition’s campaign against Daesh and focusing specifically on raising global aviation security standards and preventing terrorist use of the internet.
The Home Secretary will be travelling to the west coast of the United States on Friday 8 June to attend the next meeting of the Global Internet Forum on counter-terrorism.