The shadow home secretary is calling on the government to launch a judge-led review into the official strategy for tackling attacks by lone terrorists.
Following the attack in Reading on Saturday, in which three men were stabbed to death, Nick Thomas-Symonds has written to the home secretary, Priti Patel, calling for a review into how a range of public services that could intervene at critical points are functioning. The police determined that the incident in Reading should be treated as a terrorist attack, but with investigators keeping an open mind as to motivation.
Such services would include probation, the prison system, mental health services, local authorities and housing providers, Thomas-Symonds said.
The work would be to build on previous reports, such as the extensive work done by Lord Anderson when he was independent reviewer of terrorism legislation.
The suspect in the Reading attack, Khairi Saadallah, is understood to have been on the radar of multiple public agencies, including MI5. In the middle of last year, MI5 had Saadallah under investigation as a person who might travel to Libya “for extremist reasons”. That claim was found to lack credibility and he was assessed as being far from the legal threshold for investigation. He had a history of significant mental health issues.
The incident in Reading comes seven months after Usman Khan, a convicted terrorist, killed two people in an attack near London Bridge, and four months after Sudesh Amman launched a non-fatal knife attack on Streatham High Road. Both men, who were shot dead by police officers, had extensive contact with various authorities prior to the atrocities.
Thomas-Symonds said Labour was willing to put aside party differences to work with the government on a review.
“The police and security services have responded incredibly bravely to these incidents and foiled many more, thanks to their skill and dedication,” he said.
“However, they cannot fight this battle alone. When looking to identify, monitor and, in some cases, treat subjects who pose an enormous risk to society, we rely on a wide range of services, such as probation, the prison system, local authorities, mental health workers, housing providers and many more.
“That is why I have written to the home secretary to see if we can work together to set up a judge-led review, to undertake an independent assessment of the systemic response needed to address the highly dangerous and growing threat of lone attackers, with all necessary security safeguards in place.
“Lone attackers, intent on causing carnage, have taken the lives of innocent people, injured more and caused enormous suffering to all those affected. Now we must come together and redouble efforts to ensure each of these vital services have the resources they need and are working together in the most effective and impactful way, ultimately in a bid to save lives.”
Lord Anderson’s 2017 review outlined work on multi-agency centre (MAC) pilots. These involve identification of newly-closed high risk subjects of interest (SOIs), sharing of data by MI5 and counter-terror policing with other agencies, such as local authorities and government departments, and enrichment of that data from the databases of multi-agency partners.
The review also highlighted some of the existing barriers to local partners’ involvement in managing subjects of interest, including challenges of resourcing.
It said: “As to the delivery of management plans, some local authority representatives cautioned against unrealistic expectations of services such as mental health and community safety.
“It is not difficult to see how intensive interventions could assist in the management of closed SOIs; but against, what was described to me as, a background of widespread recent degradation of local services, such interventions may not be generally available, and there was a degree of reluctance in local authorities to prioritise closed SOIs at the expense of other citizens, or to take on the risk of any failure to do so.”
Patel has asked Jonathan Hall, the current independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, to look at how different agencies – including the police, probation services and security services – investigate, monitor and manage terrorist offenders.