Is the UK Counterterrorism Policy all that successful?

June 19, 2013 2:50 pm

We all know about the UK’s counterterrorism policy and the controversy that surrounds it, but the question we all ask is, is the policy all that successful?

According to Home Office, “The official objective of the strategy, CONTEST, is to ‘reduce the risk from international terrorism, so that people can go about their daily lives freely and with confidence'”. Terrorism has been a part of our society ever since the Irish “Troubles” back in the 1970s creating a need for a UK Counterterrorism Policy to combat political violence, however, the threat of attack has since shifted to Al Qaeda and religious fundamentalism. One feature of the UK anti-terror legislation is widening the definition of terrorism and enhancing police powers to stop and search under the Terrorism Act 2000, however, the main feature in countering terrorism is under the CONTEST strategy of Protecting, Preventing, Pursuing and Preparing.

7/7 The policy of Protect is established to strengthen our protection against a terrorist attack. The government has implemented the EU Third Money Laundering Directive in December 2007 to combat illicit finance, including terrorist and proliferation finance. This has been effective in terms of slowing down terrorist funding, however, whilst this can strengthen our protection against a terrorist attack, this will not prevent terrorism fully. Moreover, the government or more specifically GCHQ, has the capacity to tap every single mobile phone in Britain as government-online reveals, however, this could breach our privacy and more importantly our sense of safety which the government has done so much to protect in the ‘hearts and mind’ strategy. Furthermore, whilst this could be effective in terms of screening for terrorism, MI5 has ‘cited the need to make priorities as a reason why it did not pursue two of the ringleaders of the 7/7 London suicide bombings in 2005’. Overall, the policy of Protect has made progress yet this policy must be reviewed to fully break down the recurring issues such as the limited protection available.

The policy of Prevent is established to stop people becoming terrorist or supporting terrorism. The home office is currently spending £80m on community project designed to stop young Muslims from being radicalised according to the BBC. Furthermore, the report, CONTEST, explains that a “‘network of coordinators’ is being put in place ‘to advise Higher and Further Education institutions about countering extremism'” due to extremists continuing to target prisons and Universities. This has been extremely effective and has caused over 4000 URLs which breach terror legislation to be taken down. In general, it appears the policy of Prevent has created a lot of success and is able to reduce the risk of British Muslims from being radicalised.

The policy of Pursue is established to stop terrorist attacks. The government has found it is best to detect and investigate threats at the earliest stage and, wherever possible, prosecute, or in the case of foreign nationals, prosecute and deport them. The government has also abolished the widely controversial section 44, stop and search and has replaced control orders with terrorism prevention and investigation measures. This is effective as it prevents circumstances from exacerbating and could reduce the wide controversy taken place in the British Media. Overall, the government has had some success in pursuing however may need to re-review their policy to achieve maximum potential.

counterterror The policy of Prepare is established to mitigate the impact of a terrorist attack. In its annual report on “The UK Strategy for Countering Terrorism”, the government says that over the last year it “has put in place better plans to improve the speed and coverage of the health response to a large-scale terrorist attack using biological agents.” The government has also funded CT National Exercise Programme to deliver effective lessons to prepare for a terrorist attack according to the Scottish Government. This policy has proved effective as a result of better and speedier health response in terms of preparing for large-scale attacks.

In conclusion, the UK Counterterrorism Policy is very successful and has prevented a lot of terrorist attacks, however, CONTEST can still be improved. In an article written for The Observer, UK ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown stated that the strategy is “recognized” by our allies to be world-leading in its wide-ranging nature, and leaves us better prepared and strengthened in our ability to ensure all peace-loving people of this country can live normally, with confidence and free from fear.”

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