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Children arrested for terrorism offences reaches new high

Counter Terrorism Policing has appealed for parents’ help as the number of children arrested in relation to terrorism offences reaches new high.

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has caused terrorism-related arrests to drop to their lowest level in more than a decade. However, Counter Terrorism Policing is warning that the current climate is creating an environment in which extremists will find it easier to target and potentially radicalise vulnerable people – particularly children.

Their suspicions have been backed by the Home Office’s quarterly release of statistics relating to the police’s use of powers under the Terrorism Act 2000, which revealed that there were a total of 166 arrests for terrorism-related activity in the year ending 31 March 2021.

Although this is 37 per cent fewer than in the previous 12-month period, and the lowest annual total since 2011, the new statistics show that 21 children under the age of 18 were arrested, making them the only demographic to show an increase.

This represents 13 per cent of those arrested in the year to 31 March 2021, up from five per cent the previous year – and is the highest number of children arrested in relation to terrorist activity since 2017/18.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon, said: “Unfortunately we are seeing increasing numbers of young people arrested in relation to terrorism offences. We have previously warned that the pandemic was creating a ‘perfect storm’ of factors which is making young people more vulnerable to extremist influence, and we are perhaps seeing that come to fruition.

“Covid-19 has driven huge numbers of people to spend a lot more time online, and we have seen an increase in the volume of online extremism – much of which sits below a criminal threshold, but which creates a permissive environment which makes it easier for extremists to pedal their brand of hatred.

“The pandemic has also 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. We cannot hope to arrest our way out of this problem – the only way we can hope to reverse this worrying prevalence of children in our arrest stats is to stop them from being radicalised in the first place.”

Last year, CTP launched a new dedicated website called ACT Early, designed to offer advice and support for parents and family members who think their loved one might be following a dangerous path towards extremism.

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