Police arrest one terror suspect every day on the streets of Britain
GETTY The figure represents a huge rise from last year
Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said police pick up extremists for “anything we can” in a bid to disrupt potential terrorist plots.
He admitted there are now several thousand home-grown terror suspects walking the UK’s streets. Mr Rowley, Scotland Yard’s head of counter-terror, disclosed the extent of the terrorism threat from within to MPs on the Home Affairs Committee.
He said British officers are in France and Belgium “harvesting information” on the Islamic State terrorists who killed 130 in Paris to help avert attacks here. Mr Rowley said terror arrest rates have doubled in two years and seven terror plots on British soil had been foiled in the past 12 months.
GREATER MANCHESTER POLICE / PA Abid Naseer was today sentenced to 40 years in prison for planning a bomb attack in Machester
He said: “We have been making an arrest a day over the last year or so – approaching twice what it would have been three or four years ago.”
We are prosecuting them for fraud, sexual offending, anything we can use to disrupt their conduct
Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley
Only one in three of those arrests is under anti-terror laws, he disclosed. “The other two-thirds are more disruptive,”
Mr Rowley said. “We are prosecuting them for fraud, sexual offending, anything we can use to disrupt their conduct. These are extremists who are generally migrating towards terrorism. Rather than wait to the last minute, anything we can do to disrupt them is important.”
Admitting that he could not guarantee 100 per cent safety against an attack, he added: “Part of the success to date is casting the net wide, going for those involved in plotting but also those involved on the periphery.”
GETTY Police forces are having to make huge savings in the face of budget cuts
His officers were, he said, “doing everything we can do to get them on the back foot, which makes it hard for them to find their feet and plan the sort of acts that we saw in Paris”.
He warned that his ability to tackle terrorists would be hampered if Chancellor George Osborne imposed budget cuts of more than 10 per cent in tomorrow’s Autumn Statement.
But slashing Scotland Yard’s budget by 20 per cent would mean passing a “tipping point”. Security minister John Hayes then gave his assessment of the threat to Britain following the Paris attack.
He said police and security services were well-equipped to root out plotters and take on any Paris-style marauding gunmen. But he said border security needed to be stepped up to stop jihadists slipping into the UK under cover of the EU refugee crisis.
And he admitted that the country’s hundreds of small airfields and tiny harbours represent a weak link. Mr Hayes said: “The more you strengthen security in principal points of entry, the more you displace the malevolent intent of those who seek to do harm to other places. We have initiated a fresh review and fresh work on smaller airfields and ports.”
Former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation Lord Carlile and the ex-chief inspector of immigration Sir John Vine have also both raised concerns at the lack of customs checks on private planes or boats.