Children arrested for terrorism offences highest yet
The number of children arrested in relation to terrorism offences has reached its highest level since records began nearly 20 years ago.
The Home Office’s quarterly release of statistics relating to the police’s use of powers under the Terrorism Act 2000 revealed there were a total of 181 arrests for terrorism-related activity in the year ending 31 June 2021, 49 fewer than in the previous 12-month period and the lowest annual total since 2011.
Of those 181 arrests, 24 were children under the age of 18, a record high of more than 13 per cent of all arrests, and the largest number of children arrested in relation to terrorism offences since the Home Office started recording these statistics in 2002.
While fewer arrests have taken place, experts at Counter Terrorism Policing are concerned that online activity has continued at pre-pandemic levels, with terrorist groomers exploiting the fact that vulnerable people have spent more time online, isolated and without regular access supporting factors such as schools, social workers and mental health services. There is particular concern about young people, with the new statistics showing that while arrests across every other age group have declined – children were once again the only demographic to show an increase.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon, said: “We are again having to appeal to parents, friends and family to play their part in protecting their loved ones against radicalisation, following another concerning proportion of young people being arrested by our officers in the last 12 months. It is thought that these increases are being driven largely by the sharp rise in young people arrested in relation to online extreme right wing terrorism (ERWT) activity.
“For the last year, we have warned about the impact that Covid-19 may have been having on the most vulnerable in our society, particularly children and those with mental health issues, as a result of a ‘perfect storm’ of factors which is making them more vulnerable to extremist influence.
“The pandemic has exacerbated the challenging circumstances and grievances within society that terrorists latch onto to promote their brand of extremism, it has stoked distrust in authority and most importantly is has made us all more isolated, making it more difficult for young and vulnerable people to access to the support services which they rely on to protect them from extremist influence. But while arrests and convictions may protect society from harm, they do nothing to reverse the worrying trends we are seeing – the only way to do that is to stop people from being radicalised in the first place.”