News story

Threat level system updated to include all forms of terrorism

Public terrorism threat levels now reflect the threat from all forms of terrorism.

Metropolitan police officers in London

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Changes to the terrorism threat level system come into effect today (Tuesday 23 July).

The changes, which follow an extensive review into the country’s approach to counter-terrorism following the attacks in 2017, mean that the system will now reflect the threat posed by all forms of terrorism, irrespective of ideology.

There will now be a single national threat level describing the threat to the UK. The threat from Northern Ireland-related terrorism in Northern Ireland will remain separate.

This means, for the first time, the threat from extreme right and left-wing terrorism will be reflected in the published threat level.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said:

Our approach to stopping terrorists is the same, regardless of the twisted ideology that motivates them.

While the Islamist threat remains, we have recently seen an increase in terrorist activity motivated by the extreme right wing.

It is therefore important the public is properly informed about the threats we face, which is why we are making these changes.

Until today, the threat level system described the threat from ‘international terrorism’, which has become largely synonymous with Islamist terrorism.

However, this is now outdated as Islamist terrorism can be home grown, just as extreme right-wing terrorism can have an international dimension.

The changes follow the joint police and MI5 Operational Improvement Review which followed the 2017 attacks.

Based on recommendations made in that review, the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC) began assessing the threat from all forms of terrorism in November 2018. From today, the published threat level will reflect JTAC’s assessment.

The level of threat has not changed from SEVERE, meaning an attack is highly likely. JTAC sets the threat level independently of the government.

Terrorism threat levels give a broad indication of the likelihood of an attack. They are an important tool for security practitioners and the police to determine what protective security is necessary.

They also keep the public informed of the threat the country faces.

Additionally, from today, the definitions of some of the threat levels will be updated to ensure they are clear and consistent.

The definitions of the LOW, SUBSTANTIAL and CRITICAL threat levels will change meaning the new definitions are as follows:

  • CRITICAL – an attack is highly likely in the near future
  • SEVERE – an attack is highly likely
  • SUBSTANTIAL – an attack is likely
  • MODERATE – an attack is possible but not likely
  • LOW – an attack is highly unlikely

More information on how to report suspicious activity or what to do in the event of an attack is published on GOV.UK.

e-learning tools are available for organisations to offer training to their staff.

The threat levels are published on GOV.UK and on MI5’s website.

Published 23 July 2019