Government announces crucial step in counter-terrorism

I have welcomed new counter-terrorism and security measures – CONTEST –  announced yesterday by the Government.

In a keynote speech delivered by the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, he revealed that at the core of the new strategy is an approach that will involve working in partnership at international, national and local level, between government, agencies, the private sector and communities.

New legislation will underpin the counter-terrorism strategy, enabling the police and security services to disrupt terrorist threats earlier. The Home Office has stated that the new 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

Terrorism poses a serious threat to us all, with the attacks in recent years serving as a stark reminder that we need a robust strategy to prevent harm and fear being inflicted upon us.  This new strategy is a crucial step in enabling our security services and police to meet the evolving threats we face as a country.

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 understanding of those at risk of involvement in terrorism and enable a wider range of interventions.

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 the Prevent strategy.

The government will work more closely with the private sector on a range of issues including:

  • protecting 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

The government will use developments in technology, including machine learning and quantum computing, which have the potential to dramatically change and enhance counter-terror operational capabilities and countering those terrorists exploiting new technologies.