3 The UK national threat level, set by the independent Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre and the Security Service, has been set at SEVERE or higher since 29 August 2014. This means that a terrorist attack is "highly likely". Since the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby, in May 2013, 25 terrorist attacks in the UK have been foiled. But in June 2016 there was the terrorism-related murder of Jo Cox MP and, between March and September 2017, London and Manchester experienced five terrorist outrages 1 :
● Westminster (six deaths including the attacker): On the afternoon of Wednesday 22 March 2017, Khalid Masood drove a Hyundai Tucson SUV into pedestrians who were crossing Westminster Bridge. Three were killed at the time and 32 admitted to hospital, where one died later and several others were treated for life-changing injuries. Masood then took two carving knives out of the vehicle and fatally stabbed PC Keith Palmer who was on duty outside the Palace of Westminster. Masood was shot by armed police and died of his injuries.
● Manchester (23 deaths including the attacker): On the evening of Monday 22 May 2017, Salman Abedi detonated an explosive charge in the foyer of the Manchester Arena, at the end of a concert attended by thousands of children. Abedi was killed in the explosion along with 22 innocent people, 10 of whom were aged under 20. A further 116 people required hospital treatment.
● London Bridge (11 deaths including the three attackers): On the evening of Saturday 3 June 2017, three men (Briton Khuram Butt, Moroccan Rachid Redouane and Italian/Moroccan Youssef Zaghba) drove a Renault Master van into pedestrians on London Bridge, killing two people. Abandoning unused a store of Molotov cocktails and wearing dummy suicide vests, they then left the van armed with large knives, which were used on an apparently random basis to kill six more people in nearby Borough Market and in the vicinity of Borough High Street. Armed police arrived within eight minutes and shot and killed the attackers. A total of 11 people were killed, and 45 required hospital treatment.
● Finsbury Park (one death): Shortly after midnight on Monday 19 June 2017, Darren Osborne drove a Citroen Relay van into a crown of worshippers outside the Finsbury Park Islamic Centre. Makram Ali, who had been taken ill and was lying on the ground, was struck by the vehicle and died soon afterwards. Ten other people received hospital treatment for injuries. Osborne was arrested and charged with murder and attempted murder; he was convicted on 1 February 2018 and sentenced to life imprisonment, with a minimum term of 43 years.
● Parsons Green (no deaths): On the morning of Friday 15 September 2017 an explosion occurred on a District line train at Parsons Green Underground Station, London. 23 people received burns injuries, some significant; and 28 people suffered crush injuries. Ahmed Hassan was arrested in Dover, Kent on 16 September and charged with attempted murder and causing an explosion likely to endanger life or property (contrary to section 2 of the Explosive Substances Act 1883). He was convicted of attempted murder on 16 March 2018 and sentenced to life imprisonment, with a minimum term of 34 years.
4 Andrew Parker, the Director General of MI5, in a speech on 17 October 2017, described the ongoing terrorist treat as "multi-dimensional, evolving rapidly, and operating at a scale and pace we’ve not seen before". In the year ending 31 December 2017, there were 412 arrests for terrorism-related offences in Great Britain, an increase of 58% compared with the 261 arrests in the previous year 2 .
5 Against the background of this heightened terrorist treat, the Government considers it necessary to update and strengthen the legal powers and capabilities available to law enforcement and intelligence agencies to disrupt terrorism and ensure that the sentences for terrorism offence properly reflect the seriousness of the crime. On 4 June 2017, following the London Bridge attack, the Prime Minister announced that there would be a review of the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy "to make sure the police and security services have all the powers they need". Subsequently, on 3 October 2017, the then Home Secretary announced that counter-terrorism laws would be updated to keep pace with modern online behaviour and to address issues of online radicalisation.
6 The Government’s updated counter-terrorism strategy, published on 4 June 2018, is called CONTEST. The aim of CONTEST is to reduce the risk to the UK and its interests overseas from terrorism, so that people can go about their lives freely and with confidence. The strategy is based around four main areas of work:
● Pursue: the investigation and disruption of terrorist attacks;
● Prevent: work to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism and extremism;
● Protect: improving the United Kingdom’s protective security to stop a terrorist attack; and
● Prepare: working to minimise the impact of an attack and to recover from it as quickly as possible.
The provisions in Part 1 of the Bill will strengthen powers and capabilities in the Pursue, Prevent and Protect workstreams.
7 The Government separately announced on 22 March 2018 that it would amend the Reinsurance (Acts of Terrorism) Act 1993 ("the 1993 Act") to enable an extension of the cover provided by the government-backed terrorism reinsurer, Pool Re, to include business interruption losses that are not contingent on damage to commercial property (HCWS579). Clause 19 makes the necessary amendment to the 1993 Act.
8 On 4 March 2018, Sergei and Yulia Skripal were poisoned with Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia. On 12 March 2018, the Prime Minister announced that the Government had "concluded that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act against Sergei and Yulia Skripal" (House of Commons, Official Report, column 620). In a subsequent oral statement on 14 March 2018, the Prime Minister further announced that as part of its response to the Salisbury incident, the Government would "urgently develop proposals for new legislative powers to harden our defences against all forms of hostile state activity" (House of Commons, Official Report, column 856). This would include the addition of a power to stop, question, search and detain individuals at the United Kingdom border to determine whether they are, or have been, involved in activity that threatens the UK’s national security. Part 2 of the Bill provides for such a power.
1 The synopsis of the attacks at Westminster, Manchester, London Bridge and Finsbury Park are taken from the Independent Assessment of MI5 and Police Internal Reviews of the attacks by David Anderson QC, December 2017.
2 Operation of police powers under the Terrorism Act 2000 and subsequent legislation: arrests, outcomes, and stop and search, Great Britain, quarterly update to December 2017, Home Office, Statistical Bulletin 05/18.