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CBRN becoming more difficult to police says National Centre head

With access to information over the internet and easy access to materials, CBRN crimes are becoming increasingly difficult to police.

A CBRN threat is defined as ‘actual or threatened dispersal of CBRN material [Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear] with malicious intent.’

But Incidents that use chemicals cover a whole spectrum of offences. Last year, over 100 individuals used chemical exposure as a means of committing or intending to commit suicide and attacks using chemicals are also an issue 

Superintendent Lee Kendrick, Head of the National CBRN Centre, today said some of these events were well publicised, citing Katie Piper and Arthur Collins [London nightclub acid attack]. 

“Unfortunately, they are becoming more prevalent and difficult to target from a policing perspective,” he said. 

“If someone’s carrying a plastic bottle filled with a corrosive substance, what can we do?” 

He told the Counter Terror Expo that the internet is providing people with the information they need, while the materials they need to carry out attacks are readily available. 

In March this year, the London Olympic pool was evacuated following a chlorine gas leak. 

Supt Kendrick said: “There are 3,170 swimming pools within the UK […] as a consequence, there are 3,170 publically accessible locations where somebody with the right intent and knowledge could easily produce chlorine gas. 

“The production of toxic lethal substances are relatively straightforward to produce. 

“Realistically what has COVID 19 taught us? That it’s easy to transmit highly infectious and persistent [diseases] or is it the scale and size of the economic and social impact of a biological pandemic? 

“If a terrorist intent is to cause disruption and fear, it’s not necessarily the lethality of the infection where it impacts the most.” 

Supt Lee Kendrick said that most of the UK focus in this area is on the illicit manufacturing of drugs. He went on to discuss what can be done to tackle it. 

“Firstly around intelligence and information sharing, we need to be in a better position to ensure that that capability is fit for purpose.” 

He also said that engagement with industry, working with science and ensuring up to date training of staff are key.

“That’s not just delivery of course, but around how we make sure that understanding is there.”

He described it as a “jigsaw” of intelligence, industry, science and academia. Returning to the definition of CBRN threat he said it knows no borders and it needs regular revision. 

“Our analysis of CBRN terrorist threat needs to be globally connected and take into account the revised threat posture we now face. Terrorist CBRN threat knows no national borders and we need to work together as a Global community to face it.” 

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