UK: Met Police’s Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu Admits “We Can’t Trail All Terror Suspects Because There’s Too Many”
Martin Bentham, The Evening Standard, February 5, 2020
Police cannot watch all the dangerous extremists on Britain’s streets because there are too many, the most senior counter-terrorism officer warned today.
Met Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said the scale of the challenge meant that officers needed the public’s help to stop future attacks.
He said this included raising the alarm about suspicious conduct and remaining vigilant “wherever you go” because attacks “can happen anywhere, at any time” as Sunday’s stabbings in Streatham showed.
Mr Basu praised the “courage”, quick reactions and “sense of duty” of the officers involved in halting attacker Sudesh Amman, and said much earlier intervention was also critical.
He said this meant that people should “trust their instincts” and report any concerns immediately to prevent people becoming radicalised in the first place.
“With 3,000 or so subjects of interest currently on our radar and many convicted terrorists soon due to be released from prison, we simply cannot watch all of them all the time,” Mr Basu warned today in an article for the Evening Standard.
“Part of the solution must be ensuring those who pose the greatest threat to our society are removed from it, and so my colleagues and I are supportive of the Government’s plans to strengthen our ability to keep the most dangerous terrorists locked up for longer.
“But all parts of the system are responsible … and, crucially, that includes communities themselves. We need your help to stop vulnerable people from being drawn down the path that leads to the awful violence we saw on Sunday.”
Mr Basu’s comments are his first since armed police shot dead Sudesh Amman, a freed terrorist convict, as he began stabbing passers-by in Streatham High Road .
Two people including nursery teacher Monika Luftner were stabbed in the 60 seconds between Amman, 20, beginning his attack and officers opening fire.
A team of about 20 officers had been following him round the clock since his release from Belmarsh Prison a week earlier after he had served half a 40-month sentence for terror offences.
Amman’s attack was the second in London by a freed terrorist prisoner in just over two months following the double murder carried out at Fishmongers’ Hall in November by Usman Khan.
There was also a third terrorist incident at Whitemoor Prison in Cambridgeshire last month, when four prison officers were injured, one badly, in an attack allegedly carried out by jailed extremist Brusthom Ziamani, 24, and another inmate. Mr Basu said Sunday’s attack was a “vicious” incident which highlighted how the terrorist threat was not diminishing.
Expressing sympathy for the victims and others affected by the attack, he added: “I am in no doubt the quick reactions of our covert officers prevented many more people from being injured, and they exemplified the courage and sense of duty our officers have shown time and time again to protect the public from the terrorist threat.”
But he emphasised that community support was essential if the danger was to be reduced. “Communities defeat terrorism, and public information and action, including being vigilant, saves lives,” he said.
“We need people to trust their instincts and trust us with that information, and not just signs of suspicious activity or behaviour. That means vigilance wherever you go. Sunday’s incident is proof that attacks can happen anywhere, and at any time.
“Sunday’s attacker had his heart set on martyrdom before he was even convicted, but there was, earlier in his life, an opportunity to divert him from hatred and violence. That is why early intervention … is key.
“We need families, friends, colleagues and communities to recognise early intervention is not ruining someone’s life but saving it, and potentially that of others, too.”
The Government has responded to Sunday’s attack by announcing emergency legislation to ensure that existing terrorist prisoners serve at least two thirds of their sentence and are only freed before its completion if they convince the Parole Board that they are safe to release.
The new law, which ministers hope to have in force by the end of next week, will replace the current system which allows some terrorists to be freed automatically after half their sentence, even if they are still thought to be dangerous.
About 220 terrorist convicts awaiting release would now serve for longer once the new legislation is in place.
Amman’s father, Faraz Khan, who lives in Sri Lanka, has claimed that he did not know that his son had become radicalised. He said he had spoken to Amman the day before the attack when his son had been reciting the Koran to him.
Amman was originally jailed in December 2018 after admitting 13 offences involving the possession and distribution of terrorist material.