A top counter-terrorism officer has said police fear the threat of far-right violence is growing and poses a similar danger to communities as other forms of extremism.
The senior national coordinator for counter-terrorism policing, deputy assistant commissioner Neil Basu, said: “Over the past 12 months there have been indications that the threat from extreme right wing could be increasing and we are alive to this.”
Basu made his comments following the sentencing of the neo-Nazi Thomas Mair to a whole-life term at the Old Bailey on Wednesday for the murder of the Labour MP Jo Cox. Mair shot and stabbed the 41-year-old mother of two as she arrived for a constituency surgery in Birstall, West Yorkshire in a politically motivated assassination.
Basu said referrals to the anti-radicalisation scheme Prevent linked to the far right had increased over the last year. “Currently just under 10% of all Prevent referrals relate to the extreme right wing, and we have put programmes in place to support those at risk of being radicalised,” he said.
Amid criticism of police for not taking the terrorism threat from neo-Nazis as seriously as that from Islamic extremists, Basu said: “ We recognise that lives can be destroyed and community cohesion undermined in exactly the same way it can from other forms of extremism.”
Police figures show concerns over potential extreme rightwing radicalisation led to a 73.5% increase in referrals to Prevent last year, compared with the previous 12 months. There were 323 cases referred in 2014-15, increasing to 561 in 2015-16.
Police say one reason for the increase was the introduction of a duty on those working in public services such as health and education to report concerns.
Basu said: “UK policing is committed to tackling extremism in all forms and this includes the threat from the extreme right wing. Cases are pursued by our officers with exactly the same level of resource and vigour as other forms of ideology.
“The vast majority of investigations are led by officers working in the national counter terrorism network. There have been a number of successful prosecutions over recent years and this is testament to the work of police teams up and down the country.”
Referring to Islamic State by its Arabic acronym, Basu said: “The overriding threat remains from Daesh-inspired groups, but our operations reflect a broader range of dangerous ideologies and we will work tirelessly with our partners to confront them.
“Within counter-terrorism policing headquarters, there is a national unit that receives intelligence from forces around the country relating to domestic extremist groups. This is assessed daily and the unit works with forces to mitigate the risk.
“We work with all our communities to inform them about the threats and the role they can play in helping police. Anyone with any concerns is urged to contact their local force.”