It’s welcome, though hardly reassuring, to have a better idea of who wants to bomb Britain or otherwise incite violence and conflict, and, in a departure from their past obsessive secrecy, the Home Office and the security services are gradually becoming more transparent about terrorism and the real nature of the threat to peace in Britain.
We’ve learned about the alleged plots to assassinate Theresa May and incite the murder of Prince George, for example, which the public has a right to know about, and these should heighten their sense of vigilance, especially as Christmas with its many shared communal events approaches. The recent panic in Oxford Street may not have shown social media in the best light, but it did at least demonstrate that the public is more conscious of the threat than at any time since the IRA campaigns petered out by the end of the 1990s.
The most striking trend in the latest round of statistics is the marked increase in the number of “white” (the term is applied loosely) terror suspects who have been arrested in the past year or so. These represent the largest rise in any of the given categories, and the number of arrests is up by 77 per cent on the previous year to 143, representing some 36 per cent of the total. There was also a greater-than-average rise in the number of females detained. Some of these trends may also be inked to a modest revival in militant Irish republicanism and its loyalist counterparts, but perhaps not the bulk of it.
That in itself should finally quash any consideration of so-called ethnic profiling as an effective method of dealing with terrorism, whatever its origins. Indeed, such crude and offensive techniques could be quickly exploited by terrorists to evade checks and slip through security cordons simply because they did not conform to some caricature or stereotype of a jihadi.
The figures also suggest – though there is little firm evidence on the figures released – that extremists…