METROPOLITAN police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe has said it is a question of “when, not if” there is a terrorist attack on British soil, similar to the recent atrocities sweeping across the continent.
Speaking in relation to Britain’s capacity to avoid and withstand the increasingly unpredictable threat from Islamic radicalism in Europe, the Commissioner was at pains to point out that, despite the ominous premonition, the UK security services are well equipped and prepared to deal with any attack.
“I know that with each new outrage and especially those on our doorstep in Europe, there is a greater sense of fear that Britain will be the next victim in this wave of cruel and mindless mass murder,” he said.
“I feel and understand that fear and as the police officer in charge of preventing such an attack, I know that you want me to reassure you. I am afraid I cannot do that entirely.
“Our threat level has been at severe for two years – it remains there. It means an attack is highly likely, you could say it is a case of when, not if.”
The Commissioner outlined that he understood there was a “terrifying and depressing sense of horror and dread” but that there were “lots of things working in our favour”.
Specifically he described the intelligence nexus between MI5, MI6 and the Metropolitan Police as a “world beater”, pointing out that there have been no attacks since the horrific 2013 murder of British Army soldier Lee Rigby on a London street in 2013.
“Firstly, the vast majority of our officers are unarmed. I truly believe this gives us a far healthier relationship with the people we police. Our neighbourhood officers – the ones who know their streets, who know their environment and who know many of the names of the people in their communities – are our major weapon. They are our eyes and ears on the street,” Hogan-Howe elaborated.
“Secondly, it is our tolerance and acceptance. Our approach to Muslims is no different because these attacks purport to be committed in the name of Islam. We don’t stigmatise the millions of British Muslims whose values and faith completely reject the terrorists’ litany of hate.”
He also referenced the UK’s natural geographical defence as an island and a British culture of aversion towards guns, which are far easier to obtain in France and Germany, but said that, as a precautionary measure, the number of firearms officers at the ready in Britain had risen more than four-fold to 2,800.