Richard Walton

How the police should deal with far-right terrorism

As New Zealand comes to terms with the most deadly terrorist attack ever carried out on its soil, leaders from around the world will be asking their security advisors whether this marks the start of an escalation of right-wing threats and whether their current strategies for defeating this form of extremism are fit for purpose.

It has been obvious for several years now that far-right extremism has been growing across western democracies with social media providing the means for a new global connectivity between far-right individuals and groups.

In the past three years alone, the UK has experienced two terrorist attacks carried out by far-right extremists (the murder of Jo Cox MP and the attack against the Finsbury Park mosque in London in 2017), proscribed a far-right group (National Action) as a terrorist organisation and started treating far-right extremism as a threat to national security, resulting in MI5 and the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre now assessing far-right intelligence alongside its work on Islamist terrorism. There are currently over 100 live investigations into far-right extremists and four attack plots have been thwarted by counter-terrorism police units, resulting in several convictions for terrorist offences.

Large scale terrorist attacks by far-right extremists are not new (even in the UK) but remain relatively rare when compared to Islamist terrorist attacks around the world, although their attacks can be particularly lethal owing to the obsession of far-right extremists with high calibre automatic weapons and improvised explosive devices.

I shall never forget being part of the Scotland Yard investigation team dealing with the three London nail bomb attacks over three successive weekends in 1999 carried out by the neo-Nazi terrorist David Copeland. Three people, including a pregnant woman, were sadly killed.

There are also close parallels to be drawn between Friday’s attack in New Zealand and the deadliest far-right terrorist attack in Norway eight years ago when Anders Breivik killed 69 people with a car bomb and automatic weapons.

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