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Commissioner gives key note speech at Mansion House

Blog post   •   Jul 20, 2017 20:25 BST

[The Lord Mayor and the Commissioner at Mansion House]

Lord Mayor, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

I am delighted to have been invited to deliver the annual Lord Mayor's Defence and Security Lecture here in the heart of the City of London.

I am acutely aware of being on someone else's patch, but I have been given a special pass by my friend the Commissioner of the City of London police who I am glad to say is here tonight. It may not be a surprise to you to know that when I joined the Met in 1983 I was two and a half inches too short to be a City of London officer, I was also turned down by Thames Valley Police, but luckily the Met agreed to take me! And I have had nearly 35 happy years in policing.

In order to ensure I am allowed back, it may be worth me giving an assurance now. To the casual observer, it perhaps seems rather odd that London has two police services, one about thirty times bigger than that which serves the square mile. In fact we are entirely complementary, relying on each other, having slightly different strengths and working happily interoperably. We both work seamlessly with our sister the British Transport Police with its very large London presence.

This co-working has been on display for everybody to see in our response to knife and financial crime, public order and large events and of course most vividly in the ghastly major incidents of recent months. As Met Commissioner, despite rumours to the contrary, I have no predatory intent towards the others. Obviously any such move in that direction would properly be a political decision but, as a professional, my advice would be that we have enough challenges and opportunities in this great city without worrying about fixing something that, as they say, 'ain't broke'. It works.

This evening, I am going to talk about the police role in national security. We have an important part to play in our country's response to many of the identified risks and of course these three things in various ways overlap, most obviously in cyber, serious and organised crime and terrorism. For tonight I'm going to focus on the latter and in particular on London. As our capital city, London carries a great deal of the threat and risk of terrorism and provides much of the leadership of the fight against it.


In preparing for this lecture I reflected on my first three months as Commissioner. The Home Secretary recently said "there has been no summer like it' and it has certainly been a hard three months for my officers, our staff and indeed for London. Many people in this room I am sure may have been profoundly affected by the terrorist attacks or indeed by the Grenfell Tower fire. All of us will remember where we were when we first heard about them.

Like all of us, I so wish none of it had ever happened. But out of all the grief and horror some good has very clearly come - we have seen the best of people, such as the young Imam at Finsbury park, ensuring the attacker was not harmed but safely arrested; the courage of PC Keith Palmer, posthumously awarded The Queen's Gallantry Medal for standing his ground in trying to protect the public and our democracy; the wonderful acts of courage and kindness shown by members of the public. And London, I am sure you will agree, remains a fabulous place, thriving, full of life, fun and diversity.

Lord Mayor, I have been lucky to attend four of these lectures in recent years.

In 2012 Jonathan Evans, then Director General of the security service said when giving this lecture: "Those of us who are paid to think about the future from a security perspective tend to conclude that future threats are getting more complex, more unpredictable and alarming. After a long career in the security service, I have concluded that this is rarely in fact the case." And he went on to explain the phenomenon.

In 2015, his successor, Andrew Parker gave his lecture, and he said: "Today we face a three dimensional threat at home, overseas and online." He went on: "Even three years ago when Jonathan Evans gave this lecture we could not have predicted how the ISIL terrorist phenomenon has developed since… All of this means that the threat we are facing is on a scale and at a tempo that I have not seen in my career."

Most of us will remember the dark days of 2005. After the attacks of 7/7 and the failed attacks of 21/7, we all wondered what lay ahead. Not least because of great work by our agencies and police, and considerable investment and concerted strategy by successive governments, we did not suffer another international terrorist attack in the UK killing members of the public until 2013, on that terrible day when Lee Rigby was killed.

From June 2013 until March this year, 13 lethal plots were foiled and no further attacks took place amidst increasing numbers of terrorist arrests. For example over 340 people were arrested in both 2015 and 2016 for terrorist offences.

There was much success in preventing travel to Syria, stopping access to firearms and explosives and bringing to justice those engaged in terrorism or support for it, or radicalising the vulnerable and weak. Our international partnerships got stronger and there were countless examples of UK-supported interventions of various sorts overseas, preventing attacks in friendly and sometimes not so friendly countries. We continued to develop our capabilities across the UK and to learn from experience here and overseas.

So whilst the nature of the terrorist threat was clearly changing, with the rise of Daesh, the power of the internet and UK travellers to Syria, the public could perhaps have been forgiven for thinking the threat in the UK was somewhat hypothetical at best, or at worst exaggerated by police and intelligence professionals. It probably felt far away and quite remote to many. The pressure on the security service and police was undoubtedly mounting, but, despite this, in many ways we coped. Even after ghastly attacks in France, Belgium and Sousse, there was a sense for many of "not in the UK" despite both the Director General and my predecessor warning it was perhaps a case of 'when, not if' for us.

Of course all of that good work continues - with more determination than ever.

But since March this year, the tempo has changed. What we are seeing is now being described by the experts as a "shift" in threat, not a spike. We are still at a SEVERE threat level (meaning an attack is highly likely) in relation to international terrorism. But undoubtedly, the rhythm of work is very much increased for the counter terrorist professionals.

Since the Spring, we have suffered the ghastly attacks in Westminster, Manchester, London Bridge and Borough Market and Finsbury Park. 17 weeks of carnage when 36 people have been killed, more than 200 injured and countless had their lives turned upside down. In addition, six attack planning plots were thwarted in the last four months alone, and we can expect that figure to rise.

It is well known that the police and MI5 have over 500 investigations into 3,000 individuals across the UK, assessed as posing the biggest threats. There are some 20,000 other former subjects whose risk remains subject to review. I anticipate these numbers will grow.

If Andrew were here tonight I know he would say the threat from international terrorism has increased again since his 2015 comments.

International terrorist organisations such as Daesh and Al Qaeda have global and strategic objectives. In the modern globalised world, they exploit technology and the relative ease of international travel to promote that ideology and to project threat across borders. The division between the threat overseas and at home is decreasing and we cannot address the domestic symptoms of the problem in isolation from the international drivers. That said, they manifest differently, not least because we have some very strong measures in place here, for example our restrictions on firearms and our borders.

What we have seen in recent months are individuals mostly acting in small groups or apparently alone. Most have a primarily domestic focus - they are "homegrown". Many have favoured low tech and relatively unsophisticated methodologies. These less sophisticated attacks can mature faster making detection harder. The bulk of this domestic threat seems to be from those who are inspired by overseas networks, though there have undoubtedly been some who have been more directly enabled by them also and we should not assume that attempts by senior leaderships of overseas groups to direct more or less sophisticated UK attacks have gone away.

Terrorist organisations should not be allowed to hold territory overseas from which they can project such threat.

Similarly in the virtual world we have to tackle the 'enablers', working with the CSP's to contest the narrative of Jihad and prevent it radicalising the vulnerable and thereby protect and defend our society's values. Since 2010, 270,000 pieces of illegal terrorist material have been removed by social media providers, following referrals from the Counter-Terrorism Internet Referral Unit.


We should not forget the threat posed by other violent extremists, particularly the extreme right wing and those motivated by racist hatred, so vividly shown in the appalling events at Finsbury Park. We are dealing here with fewer individuals, less coordinated or organised.

But every year we see some with lethal intent brought to justice. As I speak, there are 14 Domestic Extremist individuals in custody, who had lethal capability and intent.

Their pernicious existence understandably creates huge fear in some of our minority communities. This is particularly relevant in this great global city, the most diverse on the planet, with well over a third of the country's BME population live in London. In fact, the Greater London Assembly estimates that by the mid-2030s, the proportion of the London population that identifies as BME will reach 50 per cent.

London has shown itself again and again to be highly integrated and resilient in every way, but we cannot take that for granted. Every incident of right wing extremism could drive more vulnerable young people into the arms of so called Islamist extremists. And, of course, the reverse is true. Terrorists seek to divide people.

You will all know better than I, London's role at the centre of world trade, finance and business, the degree to which London drives national wealth. London is rightly regarded as a largely safe and calm city where the rule of law prevails and it is imperative we retain that reputation.


In confronting these threats the police have a multiplicity of roles. In recent weeks we have all seen much of the police response to tragic attacks. The armed officers neutralising the threats and saving countless lives, the unarmed taking on of attackers, protecting the public and getting them to safety; the hundreds at Borough Market (Met, City of London and BTP) using emergency life-saving skills and working with the other emergency services, and then the sad task of securing crime scenes and painstakingly examining every inch for evidence. This preparedness comes from years of investment, of training and exercising.

At London Bridge and Borough Market alone, over 1,000 officers were present that night - securing the scene, preserving evidence, protecting and reassuring the public. Over the following week, more than 900 officers, forensics experts and other technical staff, working alongside local people and partners, were deployed to the investigation to identify the deceased and injured, work closely with their families, to secure digital and forensic evidence, subsequently to arrest associates in armed operations and to begin to trace all relevant witnesses. All done at pace, together with our friends in MI5, in order to support victims as best we can, to ensure there is no lingering threat, no one else involved and to begin to establish for the coroner what has happened.

Many of these people are full time counterterrorism officers. But in that first week we estimate that at least twice as many were not. Ordinary police people who do extraordinary things. Showing incredible levels of courage, professionalism, dedication, resilience and compassion. We are lucky to have them and as Commissioner they make me immensely proud.


That great work of being prepared sits under the Prepare strand of this country's CONTEST strategy. For us it is built on years of learning, from our own and others experience. For the Met, the origins of the modern day counter terrorism command began in 1883, after a series of bombings and attacks by the "Fenians", including here at the Mansion House, Lord Mayor! The first 12 detectives were recruited and the team reported directly to the Home Secretary!

For all of us here, we have lived with a terrorist threat in London for most of our lives. In addition to their UK work counter terrorist command have worked closely with colleagues around the world to share learning and help protect UK interests overseas. It has required constant exercising, upskilling and taking advantage of improved technology and equipment.

Alongside Prepare, there are three other strands to the strategy:

- Pursue - to stop terrorist attacks
- Protect - to strengthen our protection against an attack
- And Prevent - to stop people from becoming terrorists, or supporting terrorism

CONTEST has been a powerful strategy for nearly 15 years, surviving multiple. It has provided all engaged in countering terrorism - In the government and well beyond - a common language and understanding of the threat, the ability to develop capabilities effectively across many complex systems, the ability to flex and surge according to need across a multiplicity of agencies, organisations and departments. And I really can't emphasise enough the number of partners involved - from the military and the FCO, to the CPS, prisons, local authorities, education, I could go on - the joint and collaborative working is astonishing.

Clearly in the light of this latest shift in threat, in view of the terrible attacks, there is a need to review the strategy again and as a country we will need to step change in many areas. This is what those who work in countering terrorism have always done- the threat changes, it morphs, we must adapt with it.

The police are the one agency which contribute really substantially to all four CONTEST strands. We are also uniquely the service which works primarily very publicly, with huge transparency, but also have a large arm that can and frequently does work in the secret domain.

Our people who day in day out build and piece together intelligence, bring violent extremists to justice, trace their finances or otherwise disrupt them are highly vetted and work routinely with secret intelligence. The relationship between our three intelligence agencies MI5, MI6, and GCHQ is closer than any other set of agencies in the world. In turn the relationship between the police and the agencies, primarily, but by no means exclusively, MI5, is unique. These dedicated officers, staff and civil servants working in the shadows deserve our thanks as much as our more high profile teams.

The counter terrorist police network works pretty much seamlessly and interoperably across police force boundaries across the UK, hand in glove with MI5 and very closely with the government and overseas police partners across the world. This means that information being discussed on a street in London about, say, a threat in Belgium, could be passed to colleagues there in seconds or minutes. Intelligence sourced from Raqqa or Kabul or Peshawar can be considered, if relevant, by police colleagues anywhere in the UK similarly quickly.

Our collective PURSUE capability is formidable. It has been immensely successful. It is supported by strong legislation and, since the investigatory powers act, real legal clarity about the basis for our intrusive work together with strong accountability and oversight.

But, the challenges are great. Increasingly, encryption frustrates our investigations every day. As Jonathan Evans said, "knowing who someone is, is not the same as knowing what they are going to do". We have had unprecedented numbers of UK citizens travelling to these conflicts in largely ungoverned spaces. Progress on the ground in Syria and Iraq does not necessarily translate into a reduction in threat here. And we have large numbers of apparently volatile individuals in the UK, some of whom become determined to die, who may have been inspired largely through the web and decided on methodology learned from there too.

The modern threat, more than ever, includes the encouraging of others to commit atrocious acts. That virus can infect communities and is spreading faster and more easily due to the internet. We need to get explicit content taken down as quickly as possible.

Working out who poses what risk at any one time is really hard. It also seems inevitable to me that in the current climate we are bound to end up intervening earlier in investigations - the degree of risk, volatility and uncertainty means we don't have the luxury of long careful intelligence and evidence gathering operations to build a clear picture. This will mean we sometimes don't have the evidence needed to charge.

A word about PROTECT. Our role in PROTECT is perhaps less glamorous. We have a number of resources of our own, highly trained protection officers, police patrols, armed officers, various forms of technology, barriers such as you now see on London's bridges and so forth, protecting crowded places, events, iconic sites and the critical national infrastructure.

We work closely with the other agencies at the border to try to ensure that they are as secure as possible both in relation to people and, for example, firearms. Equally important is our role in providing advice and relevant information to communities, religious establishments, the public sector and business, so that people can make good, risk-based decisions about how to keep themselves and their buildings safe.

We do this through a network of dedicated specialists, through public information and social media and highly successful training materials and exercises. In this we rely hugely on the business community and this is an opportunity to thank you in the City of London, you are our eyes and ears, you work brilliantly across your own networks and, as the threat has grown the business community has become an ever stronger partner for us.

A special thank you to the security industry - who haven't always had plaudits! - but with 100,000 employees in London, three times more than I have police officers, your role is fundamental.

Since the recent attacks, PROTECT work has been inevitably more costly. I am not aware of any events that have not gone ahead - resilient London has carried on - we don't give in to terrorists. We have continued with the Chelsea Flower Show, the cricket World Cup, our wonderful ceremonial events and state occasions, the elections, Wimbledon, countless concerts, festivals, shows and protests and now the World Para Athletics and Athletics and Championships. But all have had more risk assessments and many extra protective security measures.

An example of this cost would again be the World Para Athletics and Athletics Championships. My estimate at the moment is that will cost us nearly twice as much to police and PROTECT than we estimated early this year, as a result of recent events. And of course the cost impact is for event organisers too.

Finally, PREVENT, this has always been the hardest P. How do you stop vulnerable people being radicalised? How do you counter a pernicious narrative of hatred in the internet age? Much has been said in recent months about PREVENT as a brand.....What I can say is that I have seen huge numbers of successful interventions by PREVENT professionals that have undoubtedly turned people away from extremism.

In 2015-2016 PREVENT stopped more than 50 individuals travelling to Syria. I have seen the duty on those in schools and elsewhere to recognise signs and report concerns, controversial though it has been, to have resulted in effective safeguarding of young people and the vulnerable. It's also worth noting that PREVENT works extensively against right wing extremism - 10 per cent of referrals and nearly a third of interventions are with people who hold right wing ideology.


All of our police work in countering terrorism is founded on our core principles and ethos. Of policing by consent. As Sir Robert Peel said "the police are the public, and the public are the police". All police work in the UK depends crucially on the support of people in our communities.

It is they who give us information, who allow us to set up observation points, who are witnesses, who give us our legitimacy, who pay for the service we provide. Without community support we are nothing and this applies in counter terrorism as much as anywhere else.

We have invested in local policing - in neighbourhood officers, those dedicated to particular wards, those working in schools - building confidence and solving problems.

I am convinced this work is a vital part of our counter terrorist effort. These neighbourhood officers are the staff most likely to be approached with information or for advice. These are the staff most likely to spot the signs of radicalisation. The relationship between local policing, schools and councils underpins the safeguarding work we collectively do to protect the vulnerable - including the very young, people with mental health problems or those who have lost their way and lack support in their lives.

Our neighbourhood officers are there for the long term with their communities. The trust and confidence they build makes it possible for searches and arrests to take place safely and without excessive community tensions. Our neighbourhood teams are the people who are truly trusted to be sensitive, to understand local issues and to protect local people.

I went to Finsbury Park on the day of the terrible attack, I was subsequently there on a number of occasions. I was so struck by the dignity of the family of Mr Ali; I was so struck by the calm in that community; I was so struck by the fact that not only did people thank me for the response to the incident and the obvious protection that was then being shown, but the number of people who came up to me to say "thank goodness for our PC, we have known him for ages, he is a wonderful part of our community and is really important to us.

"Communities defeat terrorism" and we need to be in our communities.

In recent times we have received ever more calls to the anti-terrorist hotline. We regularly receive information from family members, friends, schools and religious institutions about people they are worried about- whose behaviour is changing, who may be being radicalised. We have more people from all communities standing up and condemning terrorism.

But it is manifestly not enough. The threats we face are not unique to the UK - much of the world is facing similar challenges. Yet we must not deny the scale of this challenge. It comes at a time of international and political uncertainty. In the police we have some huge retrospective investigations and reviews to service, changing demographics (a larger and younger population) and rising demands in other crime areas, such as sexual offences and violent crime and in the emergency response service.

In addition, as the Mayor has pointed out yesterday, in the Met we are facing financial pressures.

Hence we in the police service welcome the Government's announcement of reviews of counter terrorism, anti-extremism and integration strategies. The Casey report shone a worrying light on the degree of isolation and segregation that exists in some of our communities, and some of our Muslim communities specifically.

We will need a step change in government, agency and police efforts. A step change in communities in their efforts to protect and prevent. And even more help from the business community.


Lord Mayor, the Corporation has been hugely supportive of the police and all involved in the response to the recent attacks. I know I can speak for Ian and the City of London Police, for BTP and for the Met, when I say that not only is this support valued, it is vital.

Over the years it has been a great supporter more generally, sometimes very overtly and sometimes quietly behind the scenes.

Just on Monday, the Corporation hosted the Step Change summit at Guildhall, a National CT Protect and Prepare event, encouraging both the private and public sector to work collaboratively. Over 400 senior business leaders gave up their time to be a part of that, sharing with the police their focus on the importance of information sharing and support for what is necessary, such as investment in Barrier assets.

But just as the shift in threat means more is required of us, we need more from you - our partners. Business has considerable influence to help us tackle the threat that we collectively face. So I am asking that you continue to support us, to back us. Business and industry has been an increasingly strong partner as the threat has grown. I hope that will continue.

The police and agencies cannot prevent terrorism alone and we will be looking to the private sector to take more responsibility for protecting the public who use their services. The training of 23,000 UK travel industry workers in CT awareness is just one example of the commitment of British business to work with us.

We ask that you continue to prioritise and enhance protective security at your buildings to make them robust and "secure by design", work with us to train your staff to know what to do to manage an incident, and ensure you have clear venue emergency plans. In particular small businesses. We want to plan for incidents in more detail with you, and share information even more rapidly in the aftermath of an attack. But we also ask that you work with each other, sharing information to better understand the various CT threats.

Sharing is crucial - be it the reporting of cyber attacks or more general information - not just in the aftermath of an incident, but all the time. The joint money laundering intelligence taskforce was a great help in response to recent CT incidents. And business and the financial sector can and do help enormously in our work against criminal and terrorist financing.

I ask you all - please be an advocate for us and the work we do to keep London safe. Your expansive reach into London's communities and your substantial voice on the global stage means your support for policing can reach far and wide, and in doing so you truly are helping us to keep London and all who work, live and visit here, safe.

I am so completely confident that together we will rise to meet the challenge of the current threat.

Lord Mayor, thank you so very much for inviting me here this evening. And thank you all for listening so patiently!