New UK counter-terrorism strategy: CONTEST

The UK has published a new strategy reinforcing the prevention, cooperation and the links between private and public sector. This document summarizes the most important actions to be taken.



The threat to the UK is higher now in 2018 than the situation faced during the publication of the previous strategy CONTEST in 2011, due to the rise of ISIS and still powerful Al Qaeda. ISIS’s modus operandi is being replicated all over Europe and poses the biggest threat, terrorism is in constant evolution, increasingly using the Internet and the platforms provided to encourage radicalization, inspiring individuals and present grievances. The Threat Level is currently ‘Severe’ and the proliferation of extreme right ideas is fuelling some intern conflicts.


The current strategy is focusing on all types of terrorism and it is based on four strands:

1. Prevent: to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism.

2. Pursue: to stop terrorist attacks.

3. Protect: to strengthen our protection against a terrorist attack.

4. Prepare: to mitigate the impact of a terrorist attack.


The approach is similar to the previous 2011 Strategy, but implementing new changes increasing and optimizing capabilities in domestic investigations. The new approach includes more prevention, disrupting terrorist threats earlier and faster by modifying legislation allowing authorities to intervene in early stages (prosecution for terrorist offenses, longer sentences and better supervision of individuals after prison).


For the new approach, sharing information is key: better communication channels on the local and national level. Alerting a greater number of agencies to individuals of potential concern will facilitate risk assessment.


Integrated relationship with the private sector: improve security through cooperation with the private sector to ensure certain venues, detect faster alerts, detect suspicious purchases. More investment in technology is needed to identify and eliminate terrorist content before it goes online to the public.


Build resilience among communities: focusing on those ones where radicalization is higher within the country as well as support British citizens affected by terrorism overseas.


Fighting ISIS and Al Qaeda abroad: though the Global Coalition to defeat ISIS as well as supporting campaigns on aviation security and preventing terrorist use of the internet.


Concrete measures under the four strands Prevent, Pursue, Protect, Prevent:


CONTEST's Risk Reduction Model, CONTEST Strategy, 2018

1. Prevent

To safeguard and support those vulnerable to radicalization, to stop them from becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism. Actions:


• Focus our activity and resources in those locations where the threat of terrorism and radicalization is highest.

• Expand our Desistance and Disengagement Programme with an immediate aim over the next 12 months to more than double the number of individuals receiving rehabilitative interventions.

• Develop a series of multi-agency pilots to trial methods to improve the understanding of those at risk of involvement in terrorism and enable earlier intervention.

• Focus our online activity on preventing the dissemination of terrorist material and building strong counter-terrorist narratives in order to ensure there are no safe places for terrorists online.

• Build stronger partnerships with communities, civil society groups, public sector institutions and industry to improve Prevent delivery.

• Re-enforce safeguarding at the heart of Prevent to ensure our communities and families are not exploited or groomed into following a path of violent extremism.


2. Pursue

To stop terrorist attacks happening in this country and against UK interests overseas. Actions:

• Implement a step-change in the domestic investigative capabilities through implementing the recommendations of MI5 and CT Policing’s Operational Improvement Review.

• Introduce new counter-terrorism legislation to disrupt terrorist threats in the UK earlier, taking account of the scale of the threat and the speed at which plots are now developing.

• As set out in in the National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015, we are recruiting and training over 1,900 additional staff across the security and intelligence agencies.

• Develop a series of multi-agency pilots to trial ways to improve information sharing and enrich our understanding of the threat at the local level, including of closed and closing subjects of interest.

• Bring foreign fighters to justice in accordance with the due legal process if there is evidence that crimes have been committed, regardless of their nationality.

• Maintain our use of enhanced legislative tools to target and disrupt terrorist finance.

• Ensure we maintain our global reach to disrupt those that directly threaten the UK or UK interests.

• Ensure strong independent oversight of our counter-terrorism work, including publishing annual reports by the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, the Biometrics Commissioner and the Investigatory Powers Commissioner.


3. Protect

To strengthen the protection against a terrorist attack in the UK or against interests overseas, and so reduce our vulnerability. Actions:


• Collate and analyze greater volumes of high-quality data to enhance our ability to target known and previously unknown persons and goods of potential counterterrorism concern.

• Maintain the UK at the forefront of developing world-leading screening and detection technologies at the border, including behavioral detection, new detection techniques, data analytics and machine learning.

• Target the insider threat by strengthening information-sharing about those working in sensitive environments in airports, to ensure that persons of concern do not have access to restricted environments.

• Further, strengthen security and resilience across the UK’s transport network and other parts of our critical national infrastructure that keep our country running and provide essential services.

• Work in partnership with the aviation industry and international partners to deliver robust and sustainable aviation security in the UK and overseas.

• Improve security at crowded places through closer, more effective working with a wider range of local authority and private sector responsible partners.

• Enhance capabilities to detect terrorist activity involving Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives (CBRNE) material and their precursors and to control and safeguard these materials.


4. Prepare

To mitigate the impact of a terrorist incident, by bringing any attack to an end rapidly and recovering from it. Actions:

• Maintain our investment in the capabilities of the emergency services in order to deliver a coordinated and effective response to terrorist attacks.

• Ensure the UK is resilient and ready to respond in a proportionate and effective manner to a wide range of CBRNE threats.

• Fully embed the Joint Emergency Service Interoperability Principles across the emergency services by 2020, to ensure that they can work together effectively in response to a terrorist attack.

• Regularly test and exercise the multi-agency capabilities required to respond to, and recover from, a wide range of terrorist attacks.

• Improve support arrangements for victims of terrorism to ensure a comprehensive and coordinated response.

Information included in the CONTEST Strategy. Full document available here.
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© 2017 by Talking About Terrorism.