Nick Thomas-Symonds has asked to work with the government on a judge-led review into the response needed to address a “highly dangerous and growing threat of lone attackers”.
In a letter to Home Secretary Priti Patel today, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary praised the police and security services response to recent incidents but warned that “they cannot fight this battle alone”.
He called for a “wider review” into the prison system, probation, local authorities, mental health workers, housing providers and others to assess how well these partnerships work together.
Commenting on the letter, 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.”
Labour highlighted that a review in 2017 outlined work on multi-agency pilots, including among other measures data sharing by MI5 and counter terror policing with other agencies, such as local authorities and government departments.
He added: “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.”
This most recent intervention by the opposition follows the attack in Reading on June 20th in which three men were stabbed to death in a park. A 25 year-old man was arrested and detained under terrorism powers.
Following the incident, Labour called for a “comprehensive look at deradicalisation in our prisons” and asked the government to confirm that it would “never again cut the numbers of community police”.
Below is the full text of the letter sent by Thomas-Symonds today.
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.
Nick Thomas-Symonds MP
Shadow Secretary of State for the Home Department