The police have recently announced that they conducted 299 terrorism-related arrests last year, the highest number since officials began collecting data in September 2001. Here, CAGE analyses the statistics and how it indicates the failures of counter-terrorism in the UK.
The Home Office has presented its figures in a very convenient, almost manipulative way.
However, a careful look at the statistics presented actually shows the failures of counter-terrorism operations and their potential disastrous impact on the Muslim community.
1. 2/3 of the persons arrested were never charged with an offence considered terrorism-related
The overwhelming majority of arrests proved to be fruitless. Yet, the impact of terror raids is traumatic for families.
‘Andrew’, whose home in West London was raided spoke to CAGE, giving an insight into how damaging raids can be:
“I’m a white British-born Muslim who grew up in the UK. Even though I haven’t been charged, the raid has traumatised my children, my wife and my in-laws; all of them needed medical attention after. Me and my family now intend to leave the UK as a direct result of the raids, because we don’t feel we can live a normal life here anymore.”
2. Only 10% of those arrested this year were convicted
However, the Home Office does not provide a breakdown of the nature of the offences for which individuals were convicted.
It is fair to assume that the majority were convicted on non-violent offences since reassuring police statements that there was “no threat to the British public” have followed almost every Syria-related terrorism arrest in the UK.
3. Acquittals have increased by 66%
This denotes a trend of “over-prosecution” and shows that, in a significant portion of all cases (a fifth), allegations of wrongdoing were dismissed, despite the low threshold required by the law and perpetuated by the hysteric climate.
In October 2014, Moazzam Begg was found innocent after spending nearly months in the high security Belmarsh prison. Upon his release, he said:
‘I need to reconnect with my family again. I need to understand what it’s like to be a free man and I think that it’s important to point out some of the Government’s failures in its foreign policy and its internal policy – its clear demonising of the Muslim community.
‘I think it shows that we have a knee-jerk reaction. It shows that little has changed since the beginning of the early days of the war on terror and there is not an appetite, there isn’t a desire, to try to really understand what’s taking place is and the more this continues the more it’s going to alienate people.”
4. Detentions at port and airport under controversial schedule 7 have tripled
Typically, schedule 7 stops result in a negligible number of arrests (0.03% in 2013). Yet, they have been criticised as a profiling tool against Muslims, activists and journalists in the wake of the David Miranda scandal.
The Home Office released figures showing that ethnic minorities, especially Asians, are overrepresented among those selected for an examination (stops under an hour).
However, it did not reveal the breakdown by ethnicity of those detained under schedule 7 (stopped for over an hour). One can only speculate that it would show that the overwhelming majority are non-white, and are likely of Muslim background as shown in previous years.