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Top counter-terror cop on release of 100s of convicted terrorists from prison

18 November 2020, 10:07 | Updated: 18 November 2020, 10:11

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Speaking to the UK's most senior counter-terror police officer, LBC's Nick Ferrari broached the subject of the recent upping of the country's terrorism threat level.

Nick asked Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu what was behind that decision.

Nick said: "Earlier this month, you'll have signed off on the fact that the terror threat level in this country went up from substantial to severe. What informed that decision by you and your fellow senior officers?"

Setting out that it was not the police force who were responsible for the move, the Assistant Commissioner said it was a decision of the independent body JTAC, the Joint Terrorism analysis centre. "So they're independent of government, they're independent of the agencies in the police."

The Assistant Commissioner was speaking exclusively to LBC
The Assistant Commissioner was speaking exclusively to LBC. Picture: LBC

When Nick asked the Scotland Yard officer if he agreed with the decision, Mr Basus said it was the right move.

"I did agree with that. And I agreed with it for a very simple reason. There isn't a specific intelligence of an imminent attack here severe means an attack is highly likely.

"But both the Paris Leon and the Vienna attacks all occurred on the eve of their national lockdowns. And of course, we were approaching the eve of a UK National lockdown at that time, and given the, you know, what we had seen happen in Europe, and that fact, it seemed a very sensible precaution to increase our posture at that time."

He set out that the move was not in response to specific intelligence, adding it "was a precautionary move. And of course, it will be reviewed."

Nick questioned the officer over the possible release from prison of a number of convicted terrorists, asking if the public should be concerned.

"How concerned are you, Mr. Commissioner, that more than 100, convicted terrorists could be freed as early as next month, December as they become eligible for parole?"

Explaining that those in counter-terrorism are "always concerned" about the issue, but he did warn that "nobody has ever promised that we can stop 100% attacks 100% of the time."

The Assistant Commissioner set out the process which happens when a convicted terrorist is released from prison, assuring listeners that "they will be monitored, and people we think are at high risk will be monitored by both my close partners in the security services and ourselves.

"But they will also be managed in communities by highly trained probation office officials and highly trained officers from counterterrorism."

However, the officer revealed that while sentencing for terrorists has been strengthened the current system is one of early intervention.

He said: "In this country, terrorist legislation is designed for us to intervene as early as possible. We don't wait until people have either committed the atrocity or are so close to committing the atrocity, that we're putting public at risk."

But he did set out that there was a downside to this.

"And there's a downside to that because often what we're doing is intervening at an earlier event with a lesser offence, which carries a lesser sentence."