Terrorism police foil three terror attacks during Covid-19 pandemic as arrests fall by 34 per cent

Counter Terrorism Police and UK intelligence services have foiled three terror attacks since the Covid-19 pandemic began, despite lockdowns causing terrorism-related arrests to fall to their lowest level in nearly a decade.

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There were a total of 185 arrests for terrorism-related activity during 2020, a fall of 34 per cent on the previous 12 months when 97 arrests were made, Home Office figures reveal. This is the lowest annual total since 2011.

Despite the reduction in the number of arrests, due largely to an overall fall in crime since the beginning of the first national lockdown, the number of terror plots stopped by Counter Terrorism Policing (CTP) and intelligence partners has risen to 28 since March 2017.

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Senior National Coordinator for CTP, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon, said: “These statistics tell me two things. Firstly, that despite facing unprecedented challenges brought about by the pandemic, CTP continued to keep the public safe by making 185 arrests across more than 800 live investigations – stopping three possible terror attacks in the process.

“And secondly, that while the rest of us have been focused on protecting ourselves and our families from this terrible disease, terrorists have not stopped planning attacks or radicalising vulnerable people online.

“As we follow the Government’s roadmap out of the tightest restrictions there will be greater opportunity for terrorists to operate, and we want the public to join the police, security staff and retail workers in a collective community effort to minimise the chance of attack.

“When we say that ‘Communities defeat terrorism’ it is not just a catchphrase. We know from experience that public information and action helps saves lives and lead to the significant arrests detailed in these statistics."

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Mr Haydon said: “Unfortunately we are seeing increasing numbers of young people arrested in relation to terrorism, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Ideally we would identify when a young person is being led down the path towards terrorism activity and use the Prevent programme to try and put them on a different path.

“Our research tells us that parents, family members and friends are the first to see the changes in behaviour which might indicate that a loved one is being radicalised. But currently just two per cent of people we help through Prevent come to the programme because of concerns raised by those same people who know them best.

“That is why we recently launched a new website and helpline – www.actearly.uk – designed specifically to offer advice and support for parents and family members who think their loved one might be following a dangerous path towards extremism.

“Asking for help is a difficult and emotional step, but we must see it for what it is – action which won’t ruin their lives but may well save them.”