The British government’s Home Office’s quarterly release of statistics relating to the police’s use of powers under the Terrorism Act 2000 revealed that there were a total of 280 counterterrorism-related arrests in the year to December 2019, a decrease of 1% on the previous calendar year.
This is actually the lowest number of arrests in a calendar year for the last six, although Counter Terrorism Policing’s Senior National Coordinator, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon, believes the spike in arrests in the final three months of the 2019 demonstrates that the tide can change rapidly and that the public must remain vigilant.
“As we have seen in the last few months, attacks can happen anywhere and at any time without warning,” he said. “Today’s figures show that the gradual decline in CT-related arrests has continued since 2018 but despite this – and the reduction in the threat level from Severe to Substantial – the attacks in Fishmongers Hall and Streatham demonstrate that we cannot allow ourselves to think this threat has disappeared.
“With 3000 or so subjects of interest currently on our radar and more convicted terrorists soon due to be released from prison, we simply cannot watch all of them, all the time. When my colleagues and I tell you that ‘Communities defeat terrorism’ it is not just a catchphrase. We know from experience that public information and action, including being vigilant, helps saves lives and lead to the significant arrests detailed in these statistics.”
Of the 280 arrests 87 (31%) resulted in a charge, of which 65 were charged with terrorism-related offenses. There were also 23 terrorism-related convictions in the same time period.
But Deputy Assistant Commissioner Haydon also warned that the only way to reduce the number of terrorists in the long term wasn’t by actions from officers making arrests, but the Prevent practitioners around the country doing their best to protect vulnerable people from radicalization.
“Our officers will always step in to protect the public from those who wish to harm us, but we need to stop them getting to that point in the first place,” he said. “We need people to trust their instincts and to trust us with that information, and not just signs of suspicious activity or behavior. We need your help to stop vulnerable people from being drawn down the path that leads to the awful violence we have seen recently.
Of those arrested in the latest year, 71% considered themselves to be of British or British dual nationality, down three percentage points on the previous year. The vast majority of all arrested were male.
The proportion of people described as White that were arrested exceeded the proportion of Asian people arrested for the second consecutive year, having not done previously since 2004. Arrests of persons of White ethnic appearance accounted for 42% of arrests, a decrease of one percentage point on the previous year. Those of Asian ethnic appearance accounted for 40% of terrorist-related arrests, up eight percentage points on the previous year. The proportion of those arrested who were of Black ethnic appearance decreased by six percentage points to account for 8% of all arrests. Those of ‘Other’ ethnic appearance accounted for 11% of arrests, down one percentage point on the previous year.
As in previous years, the ‘30 and over’ age-group accounted for the most arrests (57%). Those aged under 18 accounted for 4% of arrests, a reduction of one percentage point compared to the previous year, perhaps a cautious signal that the Prevent program is starting to gain ground on those who seek to radicalize youth.