Home Secretary Sajid Javid outlines detail underpinning Government’s new Counter-Terrorism Strategy

Sajid Javid

Sajid Javid

Reducing the risk posed to the public and preventing the development of safe spaces in which terrorists might operate are at the very heart of an updated Counter-Terrorism Strategy launched this morning by newly-installed Home Secretary Sajid Javid during a speech delivered in central London. 

The threat from terrorism is shifting and evolving, both here in the UK and globally. A marked shift was demonstrated by the appalling attacks in London and Manchester last year which cost the lives of 36 innocent people and changed those of many more. These episodes 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 end result of that review process is a new, more agile, flexible and co-ordinated approach designed to better prevent, detect and disrupt terrorist attacks. Where attacks do slip through the security net, the objective of the new Counter-Terrorism Strategy is to limit their impact and recover swiftly from them.

Central to the new Counter-Terrorism Strategy is partnership working at the international, national and local level between Government, involved agencies, the private sector and communities.

Delivering his first keynote speech on security to an audience of community leaders, academics and counter-terrorism experts, 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’s clear that, of late, there has been a step change. The biggest threat is from Islamist terrorism, and particularly so 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.”

Javid went on to state: “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 also in who we are and the values and freedoms we hold dear. That’s 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. There is more for us all to do.”

Advent of new legislation

The Government’s revised Counter-Terrorism Strategy will be underpinned by new legislation to enable the police and the Security Services to disrupt terrorist threats on an earlier footing. This legislation will:

*amend existing terrorism offences to update them for the digital age, reflect contemporary patterns of radicalisation and 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 better prevent re-offending

*enable further terrorism offences committed overseas to be prosecuted in UK Courts of Law

Responding to the recommendations of MI5 and National Counter-Terrorism Policing’s Operational Improvement Review into the 2017 terrorist attacks (which was overseen by David Anderson QC), new multi-agency approaches – initially in London, Manchester and the West Midlands – will involve MI5 and the police service using and sharing information more widely, working with partners such as local authorities to improve understanding about those at risk of involvement in terrorism and enable a wider range of interventions.

Through the Prevent agenda, the Government, local authorities, the police service 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).

Closer working with the private sector

The Government has also pledged to work more closely with the private sector on a range of issues including protecting the nation’s economic and physical infrastructure, gaining faster alerts to suspicious purchases, continuing to make it difficult for terrorists to use the Internet for propaganda dissemination purposes and ensuring that there’s always critical access to communications.

Just as terrorists seek to exploit technology, the Home Secretary has confirmed that 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 on the international stage when it comes to 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 United States on Friday 8 June to attend the next meeting of the Global Internet Forum on tackling counter-terrorism.

Critical response from Liberty

Responding to the Government’s announcement in critical fashion, Liberty’s advocacy director Corey Stoughton said: “Terrorism is a serious issue deserving serious thought. Sadly, this ‘strategy’ is a regurgitation of failed thinking. It’s heavy on soundbites and light on substance.”

Stoughton added: “The Government continues to use dangerously vague definitions of extremism to tarnish communities, encourage policing by prejudice and press service providers and local authorities into becoming unwilling and untrained agents of the Security Services.”

In conclusion, Stoughton observed: “Yet again, the Government attacks encryption and talks up data analytics while offering no actual proposals and no explanation of how our privacy and cyber security will be protected. If and when the Government comes up with something concrete we’ll be scrutinising it closely.”

*For a full transcript of Sajid Javid’s speech access the Home Office’s website

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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