Rt Hon Suella Braverman KC MP
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF
04 September 2023
An inspection into national security division and multi-agency arrangements for the management of terrorist offenders in the wake of a terrorist attack
I am writing to you in response to the above joint inspection report by HM Inspectorate of Probation, HMICFRS and HM Inspectorate of Prisons published on 20th July 2023. The national inspection examined national security division and multi-agency arrangements for the management of terrorist offenders in the wake of terrorist attacks.
This response focusses on recommendations 19-21 in the report which are made for Counter Terrorism Policing. All 9 Police Counter Terrorism Units (CTUs) were visited as part of the inspection including the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit (WMCTU). I am supportive of the 3 recommendations set out below:
Recommendation 19: The senior national coordinator should review the Registered Terrorism Offender Assessment Framework process to ensure that it is fit for police led cases
It is encouraging to see that overall the inspection found that reasonable action had taken place to minimise the harm to others and that enhanced management of offenders has led to greater protection of the public. Where a terrorist offender had exited National Security Division management, police had been comprehensive in their onward management of cases.
However, Counter Terrorism Nominal Management notified the inspectorate that at times the Registered Terrorism Offender Assessment Framework (RTOAF) was too broad and they felt additional assessments were often needed.
Recent changes to extremist activity and therefore police tactics have meant that the number of terrorist arrests is increasing. The introduction of the National Security Act 2023 will also result in more offenders being arrested under new legislation. These offenders will often receive shorter sentences and consequently are released quicker. In response to this new case load I am supportive of a review of the RTOAF to ensure it is fit for purpose and all forces should be informed of the outcome of this review in a timely fashion.
Recommendation 20: The senior national coordinator should work with the National Security Division and Joint Extremism Unit to develop and implement a risk assessment process for those tasked with visiting counter terrorism nominals in the community
The inspection found that there was not an agreed national process for the risk assessment of terrorist nominals once they have entered the community. This has led to disparities in the practice. The inspection also found that there was no formal risk assessment being undertaken before officers carry out home visits.
The safety of police officers should always be at the forefront of risk assessment processes and given that these nominals are often likely to carry some of the highest risk, it is not acceptable for officers to be at risk of violence due to lack of consistent risk assessment processes.
Risk assessments undoubtedly protect the safety of both officers and the community and therefore I am supportive of a focus on improving and streamlining the process for those officers visiting counter terrorism nominals in the community.
Recommendation 21: The Head of Interventions (Prevent and Nominal Management) should ensure that guidance is issued to regional Counter Terrorism Nominal Management teams that set out consistent use of ViSOR to support Counter Terrorism Nominal Management in the period before MAPPS is implemented and in any transition that may follow
Efficient and effective storing of information is vital to the success of managing offenders. ViSOR is the Violent and Sex Offender register which is a national database designed to hold information on dangerous and violent offenders, including terrorist offenders. However, the inspectorate found that the ViSOR system was “rarely used to any benefit” and that few staff are trained to use it.
The Multi-Agency Public Protection Service (MAPPS) is currently under development and this will replace ViSOR. However, there is no date for introduction or transition.
ViSOR must be used in a more effective and consistent way in order to manage counter terrorism cases, as the sharing and storing of information is central to police forces understanding the threat and risk of a nominal. I would welcome guidance for regional counter terrorism teams on the best way to use the ViSOR system and the subsequent MAPPS system once it is introduced. This will better consistency in the sharing of information and lead to a more holistic threat and risk picture for those managing nominals in West Mercia.
As set out in my Safer West Mercia Plan, I remain committed to working with regional and national partners on threats and areas of policing which go beyond a single force’s boundaries, interests and capabilities including counter terrorism. I receive regular quarterly updates from local and regional leads in respect of counter terrorism and will use the recommendations from the national report to inform my continued assurance and accountability activity in this area.
Police and Crime Commissioner
cc West Mercia Police Chief Constable