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Terrorism

Dstl event showcases next-gen crime-fighting tech

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The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) has hosted an event to encourage free thinking by showcasing new science and technology that could help fight crime and terrorism.

Among the science displayed to senior officials from the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the Home Office was Gravity, a human jet suit system.

The pilot swooped in, then presented a fictitious scenario, flying rapidly through the air and tracking down a would-be assailant.

Those watching the event included Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt and Professor Paul Taylor, the Police Chief Scientific Advisor.

Hewitt chairs the National Police Chief Council and coordinates the operational response across the police service to the threats the UK faces, including terrorism, organised crime and national emergencies. He said:

“Seeing a human flying is really impressive. To see something that feels like you’re watching science fiction took all those watching by surprise.

“It is clear the Gravity system has lots of potential and we are fascinated to see how it will develop and if there are any possible uses in a policing environment in years to come.”

Richard Browning (pictured, above), the founder and test pilot of Gravity, said: “It’s always the same reaction – almost disbelief that you could see a human being moving in that way when your only real reference point is probably a Marvel superhero film.

“However, the application of Gravity is endless, to be able to move specialist personnel in an urban environment very quickly in a three dimensional space, be it onto a rooftop, over a river or difficult terrain to potentially contain a roving threat is really powerful.”

Following the recent Integrated Review (IR) and the release of the MODScience and Technology (S&T) strategy, there has been huge investment for science and technology for defence. There is similar investment for policing, the government says.

Hewitt added: “The science and technology has so much cross-application with Defence and Homeland Security. Being here at Dstl is a real opportunity to look at what’s being developed and identify where that could be used in the policing world.

“Having our own requirements placed into the same environment where the science has been pushed as far as it can be pushed, really does present some important and exciting opportunities.”

The group were also able to witness the latest research in knife crime, where scientists are working on knife detection systems that could mean fewer body searches and better protection for police officers and the public.

Dstl’s Head, Counter-Terrorism and Security, said: “Dstl is all about the future, and it is important we explore what others are doing to develop novel systems. It is with great pride that we were able to show some of the incredible science being developed to protect UK citizens to senior policing officials.”

Places of worship receive security funding boost

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The government has boosted funding for next year’s places of worship protective security to £1.6 million.

It says the move is to reassure communities and safeguard mosques and other places of worship, particularly in light of recent terror incidents.

The figure is double the amount awarded last year. In addition a new £5 million fund will be opened to provide security training.

The funding boost, announced in a written ministerial statement, comes after the terror attack in Christchurch claimed the lives of 50 people and injured 40 more.

Following the incident, police presence was stepped up at mosques across the UK to reassure communities fearful of similar attacks.

The places of worship fund, established in 2016 as part of the government’s hate crime action plan, provides financial support for physical protective security such as fencing, lighting and CCTV. Government previously committed funding of £2.4 million over 3 years.

So far, more than a third of grants under the places of Worship Protective Funding scheme have been awarded to mosques.

The Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: “The horrific events in New Zealand are a direct attack on the values of tolerance and freedom of worship that unite us all.

“Nobody should ever fear persecution of their faith and it’s vital we stand together to reject those who seek to spread hatred and divide us.

“I know many Muslim communities are feeling vulnerable and anxious. But they should seek comfort from knowing we are doing everything to tackle hate and extremism.

“That’s why we are doubling next year’s places of worship fund – providing physical protection as well as peace of mind.”

In addition, the government will open a consultation with faith representatives and organisations including the Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group, Tell MAMA, the Independent Advisory Group and other faith representatives and organisations, on improvements to existing policy to protect faith communities.

To increase uptake in the fund and ensure it reaches those most vulnerable to hate crime, the government says the bidding process will also be simplified so organisations no longer have to prove they have previously experienced a hate crime incident directly.

In addition the government will be streamlining the supplier arrangements for bidders, after which the programme will open for applications.

Places of worship, including mosques, will also benefit from a new £5 million fund over 3 years to provide protective security training to build on some of the positive work already happening in communities.

The government says this is in recognition that physical protective security is only part of the solution, and institutions, their staff and volunteers need to have security understanding to ensure the protective measures work effectively.

WhatsApp

Rudd ‘using Westminster attack to justify spying on WhatsApp’, says ex-cyber chief

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Home Secretary Amber Rudd has been accused of trying to use last month’s Westminster terror attack to give the government greater means of electronic surveillance powers.

In an interview with the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme Major General Jonathan Shaw, the former chief of cyber security at the Ministry of Defence (MoD), said that the Government was trying to ‘use the moment’ to grab unnecessary surveillance powers and give security services more control.

“I think what they are trying to do is use this moment to nudge the debate more in their line,” said Shaw. “We are in real trouble if we apply blunt weapons to this, absolutist solutions.

“There’s a debate in Parliament about the whole Snooper’s Charter and the rights of the state and I think what they are trying to do is use this moment to nudge the debate more in their line.”

Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show, Rudd said that there must be “no place for terrorists to hide.”

“We need to make sure organisations like WhatsApp, and there are plenty of others like that, don’t provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other.

She added: “In this situation we need to make sure our intelligence services have the ability to get into situations like encrypted WhatsApp.”

Speaking with Sky News in a separate interview Rudd hinted that the Government would be prepared to create new laws regarding communication through social media platforms: “I’m calling time on terrorists using social media as their platform… I’m giving them more than a ticking off.”

General Shaw added that he suspected “politics at play” in Rudd’s comments, arguing that if the Government pushed laws through to decode messages on social media sites such as WhatsApp, terror organisations and individuals would soon find other means and ways of secure communication with one another.

Victims traumatised after terrorism falling through support system gaps…

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A new study carried out by Victim Support (VS) has found that the lack of a widely recognised definition of a ‘victim’ of terrorism is putting at risk survivors receiving the practical and emotional help they need after being caught up in an attack. 

The Meeting the needs of survivors and families bereaved through terrorism’ report found that survivors can struggle to know where to turn to for information and support in the days and weeks following a terrorist incident.  

Significant psychological emotional effects of terrorism and the shortfalls in the provision of care were also revealed in the report. 93.5 per cent of attack survivors suffered effects including intense distress and difficulties sleeping when reminded of the incident, and 78.8 per cent required emotional and psychological support.  

Cathy Owen, National Homicide Services Manager at Victim Support said: “Sadly, the frequency of international terrorist attacks continues to rise and we know, from supporting survivors and the bereaved, just how devastating and long lasting the psychological, physical, social and financial effects can be. 

“While there are positive aspects to the current system, such as the support provided by Humanitarian and Survivor Assistance Centres, improvements clearly need to be made. We hope this report will encourage all the agencies involved to work together to ensure that everyone caught up in such harrowing events receives the support and assistance they deserve.” 

In addition, other apparent shortcomings of the current system in helping victims include financial hardships made worse by challenges in claiming compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA), and a lack of assistance in dealing with excessive media attention. 

Homicide Service, a government-funded scheme delivered by Victim Support, claims to provide high quality care for families bereaved by terrorism, but VS says some British citizens who survive an attack abroad and suffer psychological or less serious physical injuries fall through gaps in the system. Many are left struggling and only receive help after referring themselves.  
 

Access the full report here 

Armed police man

Industry Spotlight – Basu: Sports fans and festival goers could become the next targets of terrorism…

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Revellers at major sporting events and festivals this summer could potentially become targets for terrorism, according to the Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner, Neil Basu, who said in a recent anti-terrorism briefing held at Wembley Stadium that sport and music venues are vulnerable due to the higher populations of people.

With festival organisers and football club executives in attendance, Basu urged bosses to step up all security solutions in the wake of recent terrorist attacks such as Paris in November last year, in addition to the current terrorism threat in the UK classed as severe by the MI5 intelligence agency.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, Basu explained: “This (large venues) is where you put a small town into a small area for a couple of hours. That’s exactly the same with large concert venues and much harder to safeguard with a large open-air festival. The threat has become much more difficult to counter because it’s not potentially anytime, any place, anywhere. These people (terrorists) are perfectly happy to target civilians with the maximum terror impact. Crowded places were always a concern for us, but now they are right at the top of the agenda.”

Despite admitting that there is no specific intelligence to suggest a possible terrorist attack at a sporting or music venue, Basu did, however, mention a previous possible attack by a ‘Paris terrorist cell’, where photographs of a football stadium in Birmingham were found on a mobile phone.