Brian Sims
Editor

Lord Toby Harris appointed to review London’s terror preparedness

SADIQ KHAN, The Mayor of London, has appointed Lord Toby Harris to complete a new and wide-ranging independent review and report focused on what could be done to improve London’s preparedness for a major terrorist incident.

The new review will consider the changing threat of terrorism facing London and any implications of the pandemic for London’s immediate and long-term preparedness for an attack.

Back in 2016, when Lord Harris published his Preparedness Review commissioned by the Mayor, the backdrop of terrorism was shaped by marauding firearms attacks such as the terrible attacks at the Bataclan in Paris, as well as those in Brussels and Nice.

At the time, the Harris Review made more than 100 recommendations, the clear majority of which have now been implemented, resulting in significant improvements to the safety of the city including the speed and co-ordination of the Emergency Services, the intelligence services and partner agencies when it comes to a terrorist attack.

Since then, however, London has experienced a succession of attacks, particularly so in 2017 when terrorists, often acting alone and radicalised online, used vehicles and knives to carry out attacks. A bomb attack at the Manchester Arena in 2017 also killed innocent children, while in Salisbury a chemical attack brought death, injury and a new kind of threat to the UK.

Target for terrorism

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, it’s clear that London remains a target for terrorist attacks and the Mayor is determined to do everything possible to improve the safety and security of Londoners.

Khan recognises that extremists are set on exploiting the uncertainty and hardship caused by the pandemic for their own gain and has now instigated this new and fresh review to pick up on learning from the attacks in the last five years and identify any gaps in the city’s response and capabilities to ensure that London is as prepared as it can be to deal with the threat posed by terrorism.

The Mayor’s refresh of the Harris Review comes as the findings of both the Manchester Arena Inquiry and the Fishmongers’ Hall episode are due to be published, allowing the new Harris Review to pick up on further opportunities for learning and improvement, as well as consider the capacity of organisations and groups to effectively respond to a diverse range of attacks.

The final report is scheduled for completion and delivery by the end of the year.

Changing landscape

Sadiq Khan said: “Nothing is more important to me than keeping Londoners safe. Londoners have a right to expect us to be prepared for any potential attack on our city and that’s why I’ve asked Lord Harris to undertake a fresh review into London’s preparedness.”

He continued: “While we have made some significant improvements since 2016, much has changed. The attacks on our city in 2017, the Manchester Arena bombing and, more recently, the attacks in Streatham and at Fishmongers’ Hall mean that there’s much more to be learned. We know extremists are set on exploiting the uncertainty and hardship caused by the pandemic for their own gain and are adapting their tactics, including using the Internet during lockdown to spread disinformation as well as attempting to radicalise the vulnerable to commit violent acts.”

According to Khan: “We must adapt and strengthen our city’s capability to prepare and respond to the evolving threat of terrorism and the impact of the pandemic. Lives depend on it.”

Lord Toby Harris responded: “I’m delighted that the Mayor has invited me to conduct this review. I’m aware that a huge amount has been done to implement the recommendations I made five years ago, but since then a lot has changed. The nature of the terrorist threat has altered and we must also learn from the tragic events we’ve seen in London and elsewhere in the intervening five years. The purpose of this review is to take stock of where we are now and ascertain whether there are additional steps that could and should be taken to help ensure the safety of Londoners.”

Lord Harris is a former London Borough Council leader and was chair of the Association of London Government. He was a member of the London Assembly from 2000 to 2004 and was the first chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority. From 2004 to 2012, he was the Home Secretary’s representative overseeing the national counter-terrorism and security role of the Metropolitan Police Service.

Lord Harris has been a Life Peer since 1998 and is a member of the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy. He recently undertook a review of deaths of young people in custody for the Ministry of Justice.

Two-part process

The new review will be composed of two parts. The first will consider to what extent the Metropolitan Police Service, the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime and other London organisations have acted on and implemented the relevant recommendations from specified reports and what gaps remain.

The second will be to examine the effectiveness of the working relationships and co-operation between all of the agencies involved in responding to a serious terrorist attack in the capital, including their ability to cope with the different scenarios and identify gaps between agencies or shortages of expertise and resources, as well as propose actions to address this.

The specified reports include the Lord Harris Review, the HMICFRS Counter-Terrorism Prevent inspection, the Jonathan Hall MAPPA Review, an evaluation of the recent attacks in Streatham and at Fishmonger’s Hall and also the inquest reports into the 2017 terror attacks. This list is not exhaustive and it will be appropriate for Lord Harris to consider the learning that emanates from the Manchester Arena attack. 

There is now better communication with Londoners during and after an attack. For example, the deployment of the military following an attack has been accompanied by significant communications activity by the military, the police and others to reassure Londoners about their presence.

Advice issued to the owners of crowded places and businesses has been improved and updated, including via the Cross-Sector Safety and Security Communications Hub London Protect Newsletter. The roll-out of Project Servitor, in which specially trained armed officers undertake engagement and prevention work, has also been crucial in gathering the intelligence to assist counter-terrorism units across the UK and disrupt a range of criminal activity.

*To view the full original report visit https://www.london.gov.uk/mopac-publications/londons-preparedness-respond-major-terrorist-incident

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