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Integrating CT in the service has many benefits, Committee told

Lord Toby Harris told the London Assembly's Police and Crime Committee that the integration of the counter terrorism unit in the wider police service is important.

The integration of CT within the wider police service has multiple benefits, the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee has been told. 

While previously there has been suggestions that CT policing should sit with the NCA or as a standalone agency, the Committee was today told of the benefits the integration brings. 

Lord Toby Harris, the author of the review ‘London Prepared: A City-Wide Endeavour” published last March, told the Committee that not least of the benefits was that it ensured a level of accountability for police actions. 

“Police have to own the consequences of the way they carry out counter terror policing,” he said. 

“Rather than CT policing coming in from outside, doing what they do and then going away, they’re part of a police service which then has to pick up the pieces in terms of community engagement and community reassurance.” 

As an example he referred to the 2003 Finsbury Park mosque raid, saying that the morning after at the tube station he spotted local officers handing out leaflets explaining what the action police had taken was and why it had happened. 

He explained that he understood it as the police recognising that the action would be controversial and that they had a responsibility for reassuring people following the event. He added he was not sure the same would have happened had CT been attached to MI5 or another standalone agency. 

“There are [also] issues about whether or not you pick up intelligence about what’s going on at local levels from policing if you haven’t got that integration,” Lord Harris continued. 

“[Regarding] the argument about whether or not there are CT police seconded to local stations - its much easier if you’re a local negihbourhood officer and you think there’s something slightly strange about what you see and whether you escalate it. It becomes quite an issue - am I going to refer this to CT police? 

“But if there’s an officer from CT policing who you know who sitting in the same building - putting your head round the door to say ‘Look I saw this, is this the sort of thing you’re interested in?’ It’s a much easier relationship.” 

When asked about some of the continuing challenges faced in this area, unsurprisingly tech was one. 

Lord Harris specifically referenced drones - noting that we are seeing their increased use for surveillance, intelligence gathering and delivery of payload purposes as well as in some instances the filming of the aftermath of the attack. 

He told the Committee that when he completed the review the Met had an impressive approach to dealing with threats from drones. 

“The ability to intercept, respond to them to spot them are things which require continuous [review],” he said. 

Meanwhile, when asked about Brexit and the Schengen Information System, he said that the ability to work quickly and flexibly within terrorism is important.

Getting information and extradition are things which remain possible but are now “more cumbersome” and have to be done via bilateral agreements. 

He also raised concerns over what is happening in the Channel - whether there’s sufficient effort going in to ensuring that arms are not getting through the border and also that there’s not a diversion of effort onto other things. 

“I think the ability to move quickly and flexibly is important and some of that flexibility has been lost,” he said. 

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