With the massive influx of illegal immigrants and growing threats of jihadist activities, the United Kingdom now sees the volume of terrorism acts committed by youth on an alarming rise. A recent statistic reveals, the number of young people arrested on suspicion of terrorism related offenses in the UK continues to rise.
Figures released by the UK Home Office outline how police made 166 counterterrorism arrests in last year to December 31, 2022. Of those arrested, 32 were under 17 – an 11 percent increase compared to the previous calendar year.
Counter Terrorism Policing’s Deputy Senior National Coordinator Richard Smith said: “The reality is that children and teenagers, some as young as 12 or 13, are now featuring more frequently in our investigative casework.
“The statistics are stark and I know that they’re a difficult read for the public, particularly parents and carers – as police officers and investigators we absolutely share that concern.
“Our priority is always to protect the public and, at the sharpest end of the threat, individuals will be charged and prosecuted for criminal offenses. However, for others, there may be different options.
“When anyone enters the counterterrorism system, we will always consider whether multi-agency interventions and safeguarding protocols will help mitigate the risk to the public. These can also work in the best interests of the individual, which is especially important when dealing with young people.
“Much like the terrorist threat, our approach is always evolving and we have a responsibility to consider all legitimate options to keep people safe”.
In February 2023, the Head of Counter Terrorism Policing Matt Jukes highlighted continued concerns about the impact extreme online content is having on the youngest people in society, and how it can play a significant and influential role in the radicalization process.
ACT Early was launched in 2019, to provide support and advice for anyone who has concerns about a friend, family member or their child.
Commander Richard Smith continued: “Time and time again we are seeing online content, spaces and channels playing a big role in the radicalization process and it’s important that anyone with young people in their families or their lives are aware of this.
“If you see any content that is concerning you then report it via the iREPORTit app or police, and if you’re concerned that someone might be taking a dangerous path then seek support via ACT Early”.
A 2022 report by CBS said, UK lawmakers warned of a growing threat from right-wing extremists and urged the military and police to tighten background checks. The parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee said in its annual report that the phenomenon had been steadily increasing since 2017, with tech-savvy young men driving the rise.
A growing number of young people under the age of 24 were now on the radar of the UK domestic security service MI5 investigating extreme right-wing terrorism (ERWT), it added.
Of the 25 attacks which the security services and counter-terrorism police prevented between March 2017 and January 2020, eight were motivated by an ERWT ideology.
“The new ERWT threat is fragmented and complex, increasingly driven by the internet and characterized by a technologically aware demographic of predominantly young men, many of them still in their teens, who are typically ‘Self-Initiated Terrorists'”, the report said.
Few of the individuals suspected belong to organized groups and are as a result difficult to identify and monitor.
“Their motivation can be highly individualistic, according to their particular personal circumstances, the nature of their grievances and perceptions of their own capabilities”, the members of parliament (MPs) said.
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