BEN CAWTHRA/LONDON NEWS PICTURES
Prison sentences for terrorism-related offences could be significantly increased, Theresa May said yesterday after the third attack in the UK in three months.
The prime minister was speaking outside 10 Downing Street after three attackers killed seven people and injured scores on London Bridge and in Borough Market near by on Saturday night. The attackers, who ran down pedestrians with a van and then jumped out and stabbed people with hunting knives, were shot dead by police.
“In light of what we are learning about the changing threat we need to review Britain’s counterterrorism strategy to make sure the police and security services have all the powers they need,” said May. “And if we need to increase the length of custodial sentences for terrorism-related offences, even apparently less serious offences, that is what we will do.”
Iain Duncan Smith, the Conservative former work and pensions secretary and a former leader of the party, told the BBC’s World this Weekend yesterday that if she were to win the general election on Thursday May was likely to try to tighten terrorism prevention and investigation measures (Tpims).
Introduced by the coalition government in the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011, the measures place restrictions on people who are suspected of being terrorists but who have not been convicted of offences. They replaced control orders, introduced by Labour, which were tougher, but which were being challenged in the courts.
“Internment always conjures up views of internment of the IRA back in the 1970s,” said Duncan Smith. “I don’t think that is what is on the table. But I think what is on the table is a much tighter view about the way we got about this Tpim stuff. One of the things that I was concerned about in coalition – I know Theresa May was when she was home secretary – was during the coalition the Tpim order that we brought in, which gives those powers, was watered down. And I think it was weakened too much.”
Meanwhile, a former chief crown prosecutor warned that Islamist groups in Britain were undermining the fight against terrorism by peddling “myths” about the government’s key anti-radicalisation policy. Speaking to The Times before the attack on Saturday, Nazir Afzal, said that an “industry” of Muslim groups was spreading misinformation about the government’s Prevent strategy.
Afzal, who prosecuted the Rochdale sex-grooming gang and who is one of the country’s most prominent Muslim lawyers, also condemned “self-appointed” community leaders whose sole agenda was to present Muslims “as victims and not as those who are potentially becoming radicals”. “We all have a responsibility to stand up for British values and the rule of law,” he said. “They always come to the party reluctantly, rather than routinely doing so because it’s the right thing.”