Friday 26 June 2020 / 9:03 AM Nick Thomas-Symonds

Labour calls for judge-led review into ‘lone attacker’ strategy

Nick Thomas-Symonds, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, has asked for an opportunity to work with the government in developing an independent, judge-led review in to the systemic response needed to address the highly dangerous and growing threat of lone attackers.

Following the attacks in Reading, Labour committed to put aside party differences and work in the national interest. In that spirit, the Shadow Home Secretary has outlined proposals in a letter to the Home Secretary to establish a review looking at the range of services – such as probation, the prison system, mental health services, local authorities and housing providers – that can help intervene at critical points. He praised the work of police and security services, but stressed that they need support.

The aim of the work would be to build on previous reports, such as the extensive work done by Lord Anderson, which provided vital information on service improvements in this vital area.

Nick Thomas-Symonds said:

“The police and security services have responded incredibly bravely to these incidents and foiled many more, thanks to their skill and dedication. However, they cannot fight this battle alone. When looking to identify, monitor and, in some cases, treat subjects who pose an enormous risk to society, we rely on a wide range of services, such as probation, the prison system, local authorities, mental health workers, housing providers and many more.

“That is why I have written to the Home Secretary to see if we can work together to set up a judge-led review, to undertake an independent assessment of the systemic response needed to address the highly dangerous and growing threat of lone attackers, with all necessary security safeguards in place.

“The heartbreaking fact is, for the third time in just seven months, we have witnessed eerily similar scenes on our streets. Lone attackers, intent on causing carnage, have taken the lives of innocent people, injured more and caused enormous suffering to all those affected. Now we must come together and redouble efforts to ensure each of these vital services have the resources they need and are working together in the most effective and impactful way, ultimately in a bid to save lives.”

Ends

Note to editors:

Lord Anderson’s 2017 Review outlines interesting pilot work on multi-agency centre (MAC) pilots. These involve: identification of newly-closed high risk subjects of interest; sharing of data by MI5 and Counter Terror Policing with other agencies, such as local authorities and government departments; and enrichment of that data from the databases of multi-agency partners.

The Review also highlights some of the existing barriers to local partners’ involvement in managing subjects of interest, including challenges of resourcing, stating:

“As to the delivery of management plans, some local authority representatives cautioned against unrealistic expectations of services such as mental health and community safety. It is not difficult to see how intensive interventions could assist in the management of closed SOIs; but against, what was described to me as, a background of widespread recent degradation of local services, such interventions may not be generally available, and there was a degree of reluctance in local authorities to prioritise closed SOIs at the expense of other citizens, or to take on the risk of any failure to do so.”

The Home Secretary said in her statement to the Commons on Monday that Jonathan Hall QC is also looking at how different agencies – including the police, probation services and security services – investigate, monitor and manage terrorist offenders. Labour is calling for a wider review, giving vital frontline partners the opportunity to contribute to this vital work.

Full text of the letter:

Dear Priti,

Thank you for taking the time to brief me last Sunday, after the terrible incident in Reading. I also welcomed the constructive discussion we had across the Despatch Box during the statement on Monday 22 June 2020.

The whole country was appalled by the violence we witnessed in Forbury Gardens. In response I want to look at ways to work together to address this. The Police and Security Services have responded in an incredible way to this incident and have also, notably, foiled many more potential attacks, due to their skill and dedication. However, they cannot fight this battle alone.

As a result, I am writing to ask whether you would consider working together to develop an independent, judge-led review into the systemic response needed to address this highly dangerous, and growing, threat of lone attackers. As you rightly said in your Statement to the House of Commons on Monday: “The terrorist threat that we face is complex, diverse and rapidly changing. It is clear that the threat posed by lone actors is growing.” This has been evidenced by the appalling attacks we saw at Fishmongers Hall, Streatham, and now Reading – all within a period of seven months.

When looking to identify, monitor, capture and, in some cases, treat, subjects that pose an enormous risk to society, it is clear that we must rely on a wide range of services, such as the prison system, probation, local authorities, mental health workers, housing providers and others. As a result, we envisage this review as an opportunity to assess how well these partnerships are currently working together and how that might be improved.

There has, of course, already been excellent work undertaken in this area, particularly through Lord Anderson’s Independent Assessment of MI5 and Police Internal Reviews, published in 2017, with the related implementation stock-take in 2019. Jonathan Hall QC, as Independent Review of Terrorism Legislation, is also doing excellent work in this area, and I know you confirmed he is looking at how “different agencies—including the police, probation services and security services—investigate, monitor and manage terrorist offenders”.

However, we are calling for a wider review, giving frontline partners the opportunity to contribute to this vital work, whilst of course being mindful of all necessary security safeguards. A key to this will be trying to ascertain if the frontline services that can support the work of our Police and Security Services have the necessary resources needed, and the support and structures in place to play as full a role as possible.

This threat is evolving and a comprehensive review and strategy are needed within a reasonable time to do all that can be done to prevent any further such atrocities.

I would of course be very happy to meet to discuss this.

Yours sincerely,

Nick Thomas-Symonds MP
Shadow Secretary of State for the Home Department