Police battling a growing tide of Britons attracted to jihad may ask for new powers to force people on to deradicalisation programmes, Britain’s counter-terror chief has said.
The Met’s assistant commissioner for specialist crime and operations, Mark Rowley, said the effort to stop people becoming terrorists needed a programme to prevent their radicalisation. The current one, called Prevent, has been criticised and Rowley said the measures could be beefed up, as arrests for alleged terror offences run at nearly one a day.
Police said on Thursday that more than 700 potential terror suspects had travelled to Syria and hundreds of them had returned to the UK.
Around half of the people of “significant concern” who had made the journey to the war-torn country were believed to have come back, Scotland Yard said.
Rowley said: “Do we need a mandatory counter-radicalisation programme that we can force people on to?”
Currently only those convicted of an offence can be forced into a programme to deflect them from extremist views.
Scotland Yard disclosed that a record 338 people were detained on suspicion of terrorism offences in 2014/15 – a rise of a third compared with the previous year.
Rowley, the national police lead for counter-terrorism, said more than half of the arrests were related to Syria.
Fears of a terrorist attack on Britain’s streets have heightened in the wake of the rise of Islamic State, the extremist group that has taken over parts of Iraq and Syria and attracted thousands of foreign jihadis to its cause.
Rowley said: “The number of people who have travelled to Syria has passed 700, in terms of those who are of significant concern to us and the security services.
“They are not aid workers or visiting relatives, they are people of real concern that they are getting involved in fighting or are supportive of it. They are potential terrorist suspects.”
Asked about the number who had returned to the UK, he said: “It is a fairly even balance between those still out there and those who have come back.”
My thought’s on this I’m for targeting Britons attempting to join #ISIS in the Middle East. What concerns me more is terrorists who plan to stay in the UK. #NewDayStarts