Number of active counter-terrorism investigations in UK reaches record high

Neil Basu: Assistant Commissioner of Specialist Operations at the Metropolitan Police Service

Neil Basu: Assistant Commissioner of Specialist Operations at the Metropolitan Police Service

The UK’s most senior counter-terrorism police officer has revealed that the number of active counter-terrorism investigations has now reached a record high.  Neil Basu, Assistant Commissioner of Specialist Operations (ACSO) at the Metropolitan Police Service, told the Home Affairs Select Committee that there are more than 700 ongoing counter-terrorism investigations – up from around 650 earlier this year – with Counter-Terrorism Policing and MI5 working together on more than 500 of those.

Basu informed the Select Committee that, despite preventing 17 attacks – including four right wing plots – since March 2017, it’s now becoming increasingly difficult for the police and the Security Services to stay ahead of the risk posed to the public.

“In 2017, we learned that these attacks were not a temporary escalation, but a sustained shift in the threat,” said Basu. “Today, the UK’s ‘Counter-Terrorism Machine’ continues to run red hot. Together, Counter-Terrorism Policing and MI5 are working on a record high of over 700 live investigations. Despite thinking that our biggest threat was returning or directed by foreign fighters, the majority of terrorists who have attacked and plotted are already here and inspired by UK or dual UK nationals. Since the Westminster attack in March of last year we’ve stopped 17 attacks. I expect these figures to increase.”

Basu went on to explain that this record high in investigations was taking place alongside the Counter-Terrorism Policing investigation into suspected hostile state activity in Salisbury, as well as the most extensive review of the UK’s ‘Counter-Terrorism Machine’ in a decade.

“To keep ahead of the game we need to make the changes we have identified to Government,” he stressed, “but it’s like fine-tuning a Formula One car while it’s still going round the track setting lap records.”

ACSO Basu told the Select Committee that changes to the Counter-Terrorism Policing funding arrangement are required if the UK’s Counter-Terrorism Policing Network is to be successfully maintained.

He observed: “My predecessor said that, despite our best endeavours, we are not yet as well matched to the threat as we were a few years ago. That is, unfortunately, still true today. Matching the new threat – including that from the extreme right wing and suspected hostile state actors – will require new ways of working and for us to maintain our resources, including those for local police forces.”

Basu continued: “This is extremely difficult when Counter-Terrorism Policing is always working to short-term funding arrangements. It would be easier for us to have a funding settlement made over five years. A settlement which is manoeuvrable. Having to go back every year to obtain funding for large projects that require many years to come to fruition is very difficult. A longer-term funding settlement would greatly assist us to protect and improve a national police, Security Service and Government tri-partite approach which has been honed over decades, and which remains world-class in form and function.”

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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