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Terrorism & Extremism

What is Terrorism and Extremism?

“The impact of Covid-19, social isolation and a rise in hateful extremism online is creating a ‘perfect storm’ which is making more young people vulnerable to radicalisation and other forms of grooming. Between 1 January 2019 and 30 June 2020, 17 children have been arrested in relation to terrorism offences. Some were as young as 14 years old, while nearly all will have been radicalised entirely online.”

(Counter-Terrorism Policing, Year in Review 2020)

The legal definition of “Terrorism” is the use or threat of action designed to influence the government, or an international governmental organisation, or to intimidate the public or a section of the public, and the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause.

The threat or action would need to involve serious violence against a person or serious damage to property; or endanger a person’s life, other than that of the person committing the action; or create a serious risk to the health or safety of the public; or is designed seriously to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system.

Addressing the direct threat of terrorism is bolstered by broader work to tackle both violent and non-violent extremism. Extremism has been defined within Counter-Extremism Strategy, 2015 as: “the vocal or active opposition to our fundamental values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. We also regard calls for the death of members of our armed forces as extremist.”


What is CONTEST?

The threat of Terrorism and Extremism is primarily addressed through CONTEST, the UK Government’s counter-terrorism strategy. It identifies Islamist terrorism as the principal terrorist threat to the UK, with extreme right-wing terrorism a growing concern. Threat levels are designed to give a broad indication of the likelihood of a terrorist attack. The CONTEST strategy aims to reduce the risk to the UK from terrorism through four work strands:

Prevent: to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism.

Pursue: to stop terrorist attacks.

Protect: to strengthen our protection against a terrorist attack.

Prepare: to mitigate the impact of a terrorist attack.

Addressing the direct threat of terrorism through CONTEST is bolstered by broader work to tackle both violent and non-violent extremism. This is supported through the work of the Prevent Duty and the Counter-Extremism Strategy. In addition, Community cohesion is a significant cross-government priority to build resilience and can help limit opportunities for extremists.

CONTEST in Wales is supported through the Wales Extremism and Counter Terrorism Unit (WECTU). WECTU was established in 2006, creating one Special Branch for the whole of Wales. Through working collaboratively, WECTU aims to work more effectively in its response to the threat from national and international terrorism and extremism.

The Action Counters Terrorism (ACT) campaign by UK Counter Terrorism Policing states that examples of suspicious activity or behaviour could potentially include:

  • Hiring large vehicles or similar for no obvious reasons.
  • Buying or storing a large amount of chemicals, fertilisers, or gas cylinders for no obvious reasons.
  • Taking notes or photos of security arrangements or inspecting CCTV cameras in an unusual way.
  • Looking at extremist material, including on the so-called Dark Web, or sharing and creating content that promotes or glorifies terrorism.
  • Someone receiving deliveries for unusual items bought online.
  • Embracing or actively promoting hateful ideas or an extremist ideology.
  • Possessing firearms or other weapons or showing an interest in obtaining them.
  • Holding passports or other documents in different names, for no obvious reasons.
  • Anyone who goes away travelling for long periods of time but is vague about where.
  • Someone carrying out suspicious or unusual bank transactions.

If you see or hear something unusual or suspicious trust your instincts and ACT by reporting it in confidence at or, in an emergency, dial 999.

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The Terrorism Act 2000 defines Terrorism, associated offences, and provides police powers to arrest and detain suspected terrorists, stop and search vehicles and pedestrians, and to impose parking restrictions. It provides powers to investigate terrorism by searching premises and general powers for police, customs and immigration officers including exchange of information.

Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Act 2021 widens the offences that can be classed as terror-connected, increases sentencing, provides a minimum period of 12 months on licence, and requires adult offenders to take polygraph tests. Offenders are subject to the Registered Terrorist Offender notification requirements post-release. The Act strengthens Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures and supports the use of Serious Crime Prevention Orders in terrorism cases.

The Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 updated by Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019, outlines the duties to prevent Persons vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism. Prevent activity in local areas relies on the co-operation of many organisations to be effective. Chapter 1 of Part 5 of the 2015 Act underpins this co-operation with a duty on specified authorities (listed in Schedule 6 to the 2015 Act), including local authorities, the police, prisons and probation providers, and education and health providers, to have due regard when performing their functions to the need to prevent people being drawn into terrorism. The Prevent Duty is specifically contained in Section 26 of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015.

Chapter 2 of Part 5 of the 2015 Act underpins the Channel arrangements. In particular, section 36 requires local authorities to establish a panel (known as a “Channel panel”) to discuss and, where appropriate, determine the provision of support for people who have been identified by the police as at risk of being drawn into terrorism. The panel must determine what support may be provided and in what circumstances. Subsections (3) and (4) amend section 36 to enable a local authority, as well as the police, to refer an individual who they believe to be vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism to a Channel panel. Section 38 requires the partners of a panel (that is, those bodies listed in Schedule 7 to the 2015 Act) to cooperate with the panel to allow the panel to make informed decisions and carry out its functions. There is an associated duty to cooperate with the police, in particular, in relation to their function of determining whether an individual should be referred to a panel for the carrying out of an assessment. Subsections (6) and (7) amend section 38 so that the duty on the partners of a panel to cooperate with the police in discharging their functions under section 36 extends to a duty to co-operate with a local authority carrying out such functions. The partners of a panel must have regard to statutory guidance issued by the Secretary of State.

Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 outlines the well-being duty on public bodies, which must set well-being objectives to meet well-being goals – one of which is a Wales of cohesive communities. This goal will support attractive, viable, safe and well-connected communities. Building more cohesive communities is also a key part of the UK’s Counter-Extremism Strategy.

The Civil Contingencies Act, and accompanying non-legislative measures, delivers a single framework for civil protection in the UK. The Act is separated into 2 substantive parts: local arrangements for civil protection (Part 1); and emergency powers (Part 2). The Wales Resilience Forum and local fora bring together partners to help meet these duties in Wales.

A new Protect Duty is also subject to consultation.

  • ACT Awareness e-Learning is a free counter-terrorism awareness course designed for all UK based companies and organisations and has been extended for use by the general public.
  • The Prevent e-learning training package provides a foundation on which to develop further knowledge around the risks of radicalisation and the roles involved in supporting those at risk.
  • All specified authorities subject to the Duty will need to ensure they provide appropriate training for staff involved in the implementation of the Duty. They may wish to consider further training resources available within the Prevent training catalogue to support their implementation of the Prevent Duty.

Useful Links

Key websites include Counter-Terrorism Policing, ACT Early, National Counter Terrorism Security Office, the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure and UK Government’s Counter-Terrorism pages.

ACT – Call the national police Prevent advice line 0800 011 3764, in confidence, to share your concerns with specially trained officers.

Visit the Website

Victim Support – The charity Victim Support provides information for those who have been affected by terrorism.

Visit the Website

UK Government – Has a dedicated page with advice and support for victims of terrorism.

Visit the Website

Key publications include:

Other relevant publications include:

Action Counters Terrorism or ‘ACT’ Campaign – Provides information, including ways to report terrorism or extremist content. The ACT App, powered by Urim, allows access to training, information, and incident management support. Find out more here or download on Apple or Android.

Visit the Website

The Eyes Wide Open film – For anyone who has a security role within the UK national infrastructure or responsibility for security in crowded places. It helps the viewer recognise suspicious behaviour and have the confidence to report suspicious incidents. Visit the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) YouTube channel or the Counter-Terrorism Policing YouTube channel for more educational videos.

Watch the Film

Counter Terrorism Policing – Have collaborated with specialists from the PSHE Association and Girlguiding to take terrorism safety advice into the UK’s classrooms and youth organisations for the first time. Access the youth resources and lesson plans.

Visit the Website

Find out more about key projects:

Project Servator – Police working with the community with businesses, partners, and members of the public to build a network of vigilance and encourage suspicious activity to be reported.

Visit the Website

Project Kraken – The national initiative to increase public awareness of terrorism and criminal or suspicious activity at marinas, moorings or on water.

Visit the Website

Project Pegasus – An initiative set up to get people who work in aviation or live near airports to join the fight against organised crime and terrorism.

Visit the Website