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Parliamentary and Political Monitoring Report w/c 15th August 2016

By DPF Admin22nd August 2016August 6th, 2019Area Updates, Latest News, Northern Updates, Southern Updates

This week’s main security and defence news has been Anjem Choudary’s conviction for encouraging support for the Islamic State. The Daily Telegraph reports that Britain's anti-terror laws are under scrutiny following the verdict almost 20 years after his terrorism links first emerged. British born Choudary and one of his followers, Mohammad Mizanur Rahman, 33, were convicted last month following a four-week trial at the Old Bailey. But details were only made public this week when a judge lifted reporting restrictions that had been imposed during a similar case featuring some of his associates. He is currently in Belmarsh prison awaiting sentence. For almost two decades Choudary, as leader of the now banned al-Muhajiroun (ALM) Islamist group, goaded the authorities with inflammatory comments and deliberately provocative statements. He refused to condemn the 7/7 bombings, demanded the imposition of Sharia across Britain and once called for the Queen to wear a burka. But using his legal training and forensic understanding of terrorism legislation he always managed to stay just right side of the law and avoid prosecution

Choudary’s trial revealed he has links to 500 British jihadists fighting with Islamic State. But there remain questions over why it took so long to bring a successful prosecution against Choudary after it emerged he has links to 15 terror plots since 2000. Lord Carlisle, the former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, called for the law to be clarified in order to ensure those guilty of promoting terrorism were held to account. He said: “This conviction shows the sometimes long march of the law. Whilst those remote from terrorist crime should be prosecuted with caution, there should be greater legal clarity to enable the prosecution of those whose clear aim is to exhort terrorism and the destruction of our way of life.”

·      Times reports that MDP complement may be withdrawn from Whitehall

·      MDP temporary Assistant Chief Constables granted permanent appointments

·      Police probed after Taser death

·      Labour leader refuses to support NATO collective defence pledge

·      Warning over London’s ‘commuter cops’

·      ‘Zombie knives’ ban to come into force

·      Iraq soldier prosecutions law firm to close

Times reports that MDP complement may be withdrawn from Whitehall

The Times reports that ministers are considering removing the MDP’s armed officers that guard the MoD’s headquarters in London to save money, despite the terrorist threat. A source close to the MDP said that a plan to strip the force of its duties at MoD Main Building and Horse Guards Parade was close to being approved even as the Metropolitan police was increasing the number of armed officers in the capital at a time of heightened concern about a Paris-style atrocity. “This decision will be seen as an own goal, leaving the building defenceless to a lone wolf attack,” the source said.

Jim Gillen, commenting as Vice-Chairman of the Defence Police Federation, said: “We have not been notified of any decision by the department, but believe this would put the public and the building’s staff at greater risk.” A spokesperson for the MoD confirmed the Department was reviewing the way Main Building is secured, but insisted that no final decisions had been made.

The story has also been reported in the Daily Express and, at the time of writing, an article is also expected to appear in Police Oracle. The suggestion that the MDP complement could be removed from Main Building forms part of a site by site review of security being undertaken by the MoD in the wake of the SDSR. As noted in The Times, the Federation has not been told the Department will be taking forward any such plans – and has robustly stated in communications with journalists that the removal of any MDP complement should be seen as a regressive measure that will reduce security and impact the availability of armed officers to respond to a terrorist incident. It is hoped that the public scrutiny on this decision will encourage the Department to retain the MDP presence at Main Building and other sites.

MDP Assistant Chief Constables granted permanent appointments

Police Professional reports that the MDP’s two temporary assistant chief constables have received permanent appointments following a national selection process. Paul McLaughlin and Dave Long are both career MDP officers with more than 30 years’ experience in the force. Mr McLaughlin will continue to be responsible for operations, and Mr Long for organisational development and crime. Both have taken up their posts with immediate effect.

Chief Constable Alf Hitchcock said: “Paul and Dave have proven their capabilities as temporary chief officers and made a firm commitment to the development of the force by competing for these posts.” He added “the MDP has a unique contribution to make to policing the MOD environment and critical national infrastructure. Paul and Dave have displayed the leadership qualities and professional skills MDP needs moving forward – I am pleased to have them as permanent members of the team.”

Police probed after Taser death

The BBC reports that two police officers are under criminal investigation after the death of former Aston Villa star Dalian Atkinson who died after he was shot with a Taser. The West Mercia officers have been suspended pending the outcome of the probe by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, the force said. Mr Atkinson died shortly after being shot following an altercation in Meadow Close, Trench, in Telford on Monday. A post-mortem examination was inconclusive. IPCC Commissioner, Derrick Campbell, said the investigation would consider Mr Atkinson's death and the “level and type of force used” against him.

Police said the Taser was deployed in Telford, Shropshire after officers were called to a report of concern for a man's safety at Mr Atkinson's father's house. A neighbour described seeing the 48-year-old being Tasered after “stumbling towards” police. Mr Atkinson went into cardiac arrest on his way to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

This incident is likely to raise further questions over the use of Tasers as ‘non-lethal’ alternatives to guns. However, given the security situation, there is likely to be little political support for the withdrawal of the weapons.

Labour leader refuses to support NATO collective defence pledge

The Independent reports that Jeremy Corbyn has refused to say he would provide military help to a NATO ally invaded by Russia as he clashed with rival Owen Smith over Britain's defence policy. Asked at the latest Labour leadership debate how he would react as Prime Minister to a violation by Vladimir Putin of the sovereignty of another NATO state, Mr Corbyn failed to assure he would enact the organisation's principle of collective defence. Speaking in Birmingham on Thursday, Mr Corbyn said: ““I don't wish to go to war. What I want to do is achieve a world where we don't need to go to war, where there is no need for it. That can be done.” In contrast, leadership challenger Mr Smith was unequivocal when answering the question. “We would have to come to the aid of a fellow member of NATO. That's the nature of the NATO accord.”

The refusal of Jeremy Corbyn to back the UK’s commitment to NATO’s principle of collective self defence is likely to deepen already wide foreign and defence policy divisions within the Labour party.

Warning over London’s ‘commuter cops’

The Daily Telegraph reports that analysis from the Policy Exchange think-thank has indicated that the Metropolitan Police could struggle to mobilise officers during a terrorist incident because so many live outside the capital – with some based as far afield as Cornwall and the South of France. Less than half of the Met’s 18,000 borough officers now live in London, with soaring house prices giving rise to a phenomenon known as ‘commuter cops’. Researchers also found that living outside the community they policed meant officers were not as connected as those who were based in the capital. The report suggested that the Met should work with housing associations to convert underused police properties into housing and make it available to officers at discounted prices.

The report’s author, Glyn Gaskarth, said: “Having a police force that lives outside London affects the ability of the Met to mobilise sufficient numbers of officers to deal with terrorist incidents or civil disturbances.” But Met Police Deputy Commissioner Craig Mackey insisted contingency plans meant the force was well placed to deal with major emergencies.  

‘Zombie knives’ ban to come into force

The BBC reports that a ban on the sale of so-called “zombie knives” has come into force in England and Wales this week. Inspired by horror films, the curved blades with serrated edges are often sold as collectors' items, but police say they are increasingly being carried by criminals. Last year a north London teenager was killed with one of the weapons. Safeguarding minister Sarah Newton said the ban would “keep communities safe”. Sold under brand names like “head splitter” and “zombie killer”, the weapons can be bought on the internet for as little as £8.

Alf Hitchcock, Chief Constable of the MDP and lead on knife crime at the National Police Chiefs' Council, said police were pleased that legislation had been introduced “early” to tackle the “growing problem” of zombie knives. He said the “vast majority” of knife crimes involved kitchen knives, but zombie knives had “suddenly become very popular as a sign of bravado in gangs”.

Iraq soldier prosecutions law firm to close

The Daily Telegraph reports that hundreds of compensation claims against British soldiers are likely to be abandoned after a controversial law firm accused of “hounding” troops announced that it is closing. Public Interest Lawyers has spent more than a decade pursuing British soldiers through the courts since the Iraq War and has leveled more than 1,100 claims of maltreatment against them including abuse, torture and murder. However the firm, based in Birmingham, has now informed clients that it is shutting down just days being barred from receiving public money for ongoing cases after an 18 month investigation by the Legal Aid Agency. Phil Shiner, the firm’s founder, is under investigation by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal and even faces a possible criminal inquiry by the National Crime Agency over allegations Iraqi civilians were “bribed” to bring claims.

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