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Parliamentary and Political Monitoring Report w/c 05th March 2017

By DPF Admin10th March 2017August 6th, 2019Area Updates, Latest News, Northern Updates, Southern Updates

The week’s main UK security and defence news has been the claim that police have thwarted multiple Paris-style terror plots. The Guardian reports that whilst launching an appeal for public help in combating terrorism, Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for counter-terrorism, said the attacks were among 13 Islamist plots that had been prevented since the murder of Lee Rigby in 2013. Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Rowley said many of the disrupted attacks involved only one or two individuals. But he added: “Some of them have been more sophisticated planning looking to attack public spaces, or police offices or the military, not that dissimilar to some of the attacks we have seen in Belgium and France and elsewhere. There is a whole range from the simple to the complicated.”

As part of the Action Counters Terrorism campaign, a podcast has been produced revealing previously untold stories of how UK terrorist attacks were prevented, featuring accounts from detectives, bomb disposal and surveillance officers.  Mr Rowley said the aim of releasing new material was to give an insight into how terrorists might prepare and provide more confidence for the public to report any suspicions. TV adverts have been launched appealing for members of the public to report any suspicious conversation they might overhear.

Mr Rowley also urged the public to be wary of far-right terrorist plots, as well as those from Islamic extremists, noting “Extreme rightwing groups are very provocative and can cause significant risk to our communities, and indeed there are extreme rightwing-related issues which led to the tragic murder of Jo Cox.”

The return of fighters from Iraq and Syria as the Islamic State suffers territorial losses is only likely to increase the risk of Paris-style attacks in the UK. Whether these operations are basic affairs such as the murder of Lee Rigby, or more sophisticated operations, it will be vital to maintain and grow existing armed policing capacity – including that of the MDP. 

·       MDP officer involved in car accident

·       Report highlights MoD security breaches

·       Armed police ‘will no longer be automatically relived from during after firing’

·       Police search rubbish tip for missing RAF man

·       Ten Royal Marines cleared of murder after third trial

·       Sinn Fein urged to agree to inquiry into IRA Troubles killings as part of power-sharing deal

·       Iraq and Afghanistan wars memorial unveiled

·       Near miss reported between drone and RAF helicopter

·       RAF pilot dismissed over nosedive incident

MDP officer involved in car accident

The Press and Journal reports that an MDP officer was the other driver in an accident that left a Police Scotland dog handler in a critical condition in hospital. Police Scotland Constable George Shearer was on-duty in a marked police van with his animals when it was involved in a crash on the A90. The 46-year-old – who has been described as one of the force’s best handlers – was taken to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary (ARI) to be treated for head injuries. He remains in critical condition. The other casualty was an unnamed MoD officer who is said to have been stationed at the nearby St Fergus Gas Terminal. Police refused to give details of the 58-year-old’s injuries, however it is understood he is in a stable condition.

An MDP spokesman said: “We are aware that an MDP officer has been involved in a serious road collision on the A90 in Scotland. A Police Scotland accident investigation is under way.” He added “It would be inappropriate to comment further.” A spokesman for the DPF said: “As this incident is the subject of an ongoing investigation, it would be inappropriate for the Defence Police Federation to comment, but our thoughts are with all parties involved.”

It was subsequently reported that Sam, one of the two police dog in the Police Scotland vehicle involved in the incident, had to be put down as a result of complication following post-accident surgery.

Clearly the MDP officer involved is one of our members and we are and will continue to support them. The DPF was approached for comment by the Press and Journal and responded as described above. We will continue to engage with journalists as required, although we will not be commenting on the particulars of the incident or on ongoing investigations. 

Report highlights MoD security breaches

The Daily Mirror reports that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of security incidents at military sites, with 1,300 incidents at bases in just two years, and a rise from 486 incidents in 2015 to 806 in 2016. There were 373 “physical incidents” at Army sites last year, with another 214 at Royal Navy stations, official figures revealed. Security breaches at RAF bases climbed from 19 in 2015 to 87 last year – a surge of 358%.

Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said “These figures for security breaches should raise alarm, particularly in the security atmosphere we are currently living through”, adding ““The Government need to come forward with a plan to change this. But more than that, defence ministers need to assure the public, Forces personnel and their families that they are taking this incredibly seriously.”

The article also notes the cuts endured by the Service Police and MDP, stating that MDP budget was sliced from £182.5million to £136.5million between 2010 and 2016.

This data in this article is sourced from answers to written parliamentary questions tabled by Tim Farron and former Labour Defence Minister Kevan Jones earlier this year. We are currently engaging with the latter to update him on the DPF’s current issues of concern, having met him in his former capacity as a Shadow Defence Minister.

Armed police ‘will no longer be automatically relived from duty after firing’

The Daily Mail reports that armed police will only be suspended for using their guns “in exceptional circumstances”, Home Secretary Amber Rudd has said. Her comments came in response to a question from Conservative MP Michael Fabricant who said the current rules of engagement for firearms officers were “not fit for purpose”.

Speaking during Home Office questions, Mr Fabricant said: 'I'm quite concerned by the fact that a number of police officers, both here at the Palace of Westminster and in Downing Street, that they as armed police officers don't feel that they are getting the freedom to act that they should have, because of the rules of engagement.” Ms Rudd replied: “I recognise that this is a difficult issue sometimes, which is why we have been reviewing the support we provide our firearms officers so that they can carry out their crucial duties without fear, while ensuring there is necessary scrutiny.” The Home Secretary added: “I know he had specific concerns about automatic suspension and firing. I can confirm that only in exceptional circumstances would somebody be suspended for using their gun, and there is no rule prohibiting officers from shooting first.”

The manner in which armed police are treated after incidents has long been cited as a barrier to recruitment, and it is likely that this move is designed to increase the number of those willing to became armed officers.

Police search rubbish tip for missing RAF man

The Daily Telegraph reports that a search team investigating the disappearance of RAF gunner Corrie McKeague have trawled through 60 tonnes of waste at a landfill site as his mother warned it would be “just a matter of time” until his remains are found. Police have warned that it could take up to 10 weeks for the team of eight search officers to sift through vast swathes of rubbish at the site in Milton, near Cambridge. However, a spokesman for Suffolk police say the force is “confident” he will be found.

The landfill search follows the discovery of CCTV footage this week, showing that a bin lorry was stationed near Brentgovel Street in the town around the same time that Mr McKeague was last seen. The movements of the vehicle also appear to match the location signals traced on his phone.

Ten Royal Marines cleared of murder after third trial

The Daily Mail reports that ten Royal Marines were this week cleared for the third time of shooting dead a suspected Iraqi suicide bomber in his car a decade ago. A £200,000 inquiry concluded the British marines acted lawfully when they opened fire on the vehicle they believed to be rigged with explosives in December 2004. Exonerating the Marines of the death of Captain Abdul Hassan, Sir George Newman said in a report that the circumstances “gave little or no chance for deliberation”. He concluded their response to what they perceived to be an “imminent threat” was both “reasonable” and in accordance with the Rules of Engagement. The now defunct firm Public Interest Lawyers, which represented the off duty Iraqi police officer’s wife, had claimed the men had unlawfully shot and killed him.

Sinn Fein urged to agree to inquiry into IRA Troubles killings as part of power-sharing deal 

The Daily Telegraph reports that Sinn Fein has been urged by the Government to agree to a new inquiry into IRA killings during the Troubles as power-sharing talks begin following last Thursday’s elections. The results saw a surge in support for Sinn Fein, taking it to within a whisker of beating the DUP and leaving the Stormont Assembly without an overall Unionist majority for the first time. James Brokenshire, the Northern Ireland Secretary, is due to have individual talks with representatives from the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein.

Sinn Fein will be urged to agree to the implementation of a two-year-old deal to investigate all 3,500 killings in the Troubles. Last week, Mr Brokenshire said criminal inquiries into British soldiers’ conduct must be overhauled to ensure troops are not “unfairly treated or disproportionately investigated”. He said investigations were now focused too heavily on finding abuses by security forces. One Government sources pointed out that only 10% of the killings in Northern Ireland in the Troubles were by British soldiers.

Iraq and Afghanistan wars memorial unveiled

The BBC reports that a memorial dedicated to those who served in Afghanistan (2001-2014) and both Iraq wars (1991 and 2003-2009) has been unveiled by the Queen in central London. The sculpture by Paul Day also marks the contribution made by civilians in the conflicts. It is formed of two stone monoliths and a bronze medallion. Its unveiling in Victoria Embankment Gardens followed a service for 2,500 veterans on Horse Guards Parade. More than 800 UK military personnel and civilians died in the three wars. The £1m monument was funded by a campaign by the Sun on Sunday newspaper

Near miss reported between drone and RAF helicopter

The Daily Telegraph reports that an RAF Chinook helicopter was seconds away from being downed in a collision with a drone as it came into land at a British base, an investigation has found. The twin-rotor aircraft was flying at 138mph when the drone was spotted as a “faint” image on radar by an air traffic controller on the ground. They then alerted the crew to the obstruction, which was hovering in the helicopter’s direct flight path.

The UK Airprox Board, which investigated the near collision, slammed the unknown drone pilot for failing to “monitor its flight path in relation to other aircraft for the purpose of avoiding collisions”.

The problems commercially available drones can cause both in the air and on the ground (and either accidentally or intentionally) is an issue that is only now becoming appreciated by security forces. It seems likely that it will be only a matter of time before a significant incident occurs.

RAF pilot dismissed over nosedive incident

The BBC reports that an RAF pilot who caused his plane to nosedive while using a digital camera has been dismissed by a military court.  The Voyager aircraft, which had 198 passengers and crew on board, plummeted 4,400ft (1,341m) over the Black Sea. Townshend pleaded guilty to negligently performing a duty and was also handed a four-month suspended prison sentence.

The court martial heard that during a flight from RAF Brize Norton to Afghanistan on 9 February 2014, the 49-year-old pilot's camera was pushed into the aircraft's control stick as he moved his seat, switching off the autopilot. Nigel Lickley QC, prosecuting, said the incident led to the grounding of the military fleet of six Voyager aircraft for 13 days while the cause of the nosedive was investigated. This led to service personnel being stranded in Afghanistan while they waited for the aircraft to be brought back into service, he added. He said up to 48 personnel were left unfit for duty and the co-pilot, Flt Lt Nathan Jones, who suffered fractures to his spine, is still unable to resume flying duties.

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