Lockdowns may have made terrorism threat to UK worse, says minister

Damian Hinds said there was a growing risk people could explore extremism online during periods of isolation

A police van at a cordon near a residential property in Liverpool during an incident in November. AFP

The terrorism threat to the UK may have been made worse by coronavirus lockdowns, a British government minister said.

Damian Hinds, Minister of State for Security and Borders, said the threat from the far-right of British politics was also growing, as was the danger that people who were isolated at home could be radicalised by extremist material they find online while locked down.

“Clearly, logically, when you have more people who are spending more time in their bedrooms at their computer … you are going to get a growth in that tiny proportion of people for whom that is a dark journey,” Mr Hinds said.

“And as you know, on the internet, if you start to make those kind of downwards spirals, you can quickly accelerate with the material that you come across and the other people that you can come into contact with.”

Mr Hinds echoed assessments from police forces and the UN's Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED).

He also praised the Prevent anti-radicalisation programme, which is under government review.

“There has been a growth in extreme right-wing terrorism. More young people coming on to the Prevent programme have an extreme right-wing mindset,” Mr Hinds said.

“Islamist extremism terrorism, though, remains a potent threat. And we also have quite a few people who you might describe as having a sort of mixed or unclear or unstable mindset,” he said.

“Sometimes [they are] looking at flirting with different ideologies, different groups, sometimes apparently mutually exclusive – very, very different types of ideology.”

Since Mr Hinds took on the security post in August, there have been two alleged attacks – the killing of MP Sir David Amess and an attack outside Liverpool Women's Hospital.

Counter Terrorism Policing said this month they foiled seven “late-stage” attempted terrorist attacks since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

It took the total number of foiled plots in the UK in the last four years to 32.

This month, a CTED report said extremists had “sought to exploit pandemic-related sociocultural restrictions that have led people around the world to spend increasing time online, by strengthening their efforts to spread propaganda, recruit, and radicalise via virtual platforms".

Updated: December 27th 2021, 2:58 PM