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Cities should adopt ‘security boards’ as running in London since the London Bridge terror attack, to assess and protect vulnerable sites, according to a chief coroner’s report after inquests earlier this year into the Saturday night, June 3, 2017 deaths.
As the report by Mark Lucraft, Chief Coroner of England and Wales, says, ‘considerable evidence was heard to explain why the footways of London Bridge did not have physical protective security measures, such as barriers or bollards, at the time of the attack. The Inquests also heard evidence as to how the decision was taken to install temporary, but apparently robust, hostile vehicle mitigation (HVM) barriers on London bridges in the immediate aftermath’ of the attack.
The coroner notes that despite the counter-terror definition of a ‘crowded place’ since 2012, in 2017 London Bridge did not meet the requisite level of crowd density; and could not have been treated as a priority site under the national criteria. It was not subject to advice by police counter-terror security advisers (CTSAs), although ‘it was a particularly attractive target for terrorists, as identified in 2017 by a local CTSA’, and by private consultancy company Cerastes. The coroner concludes that ‘national criteria for identifying sites which would receive proactive advice were apparently too rigid’, and calls on the Home Office and Nactso (National Counter Terrorism Security Office) to ‘review the sensitive national criteria and tests for identifying sites as priority Crowded Places’ about bridges and roads.
While bereaved families suggested appointing an independent reviewer of protective security, like the Independent Review of Terrorism Legislation, the coroner did not suggest such a figure; instead, periodic review, exercises or external consultants. Nor did the coroner see a basis for raising a concern about the official “Run, Hide, Tell” message in case of a marauding terror attack; or any ‘systemic deficiency in communications technology’. And as for whether police should have more first aid skills, the report notes emergency trauma packs for businesses in the City of London among other steps. The report does suggest more first aid training and kit for police, such as ‘training some officers in advanced life-saving procedures analogous to battlefield medicine’. While the London Bridge attack took place at the physical border between two police forces, City of London and the Met, the report did not query the smaller City force (‘all the evidence was of good collaboration between the two forces’).
The report went on to what the coroner called ‘a troubling lack of clarity’ about legal responsibilities. The City of London Corporation (CoLC) was the local authority responsible for the structure of London Bridge, while Transport for London (TfL) was the highway authority responsible for the roadway on the bridge. CoLC was undertaking work to improve protective security across the City before the attack. As the report put it, the coroner did not find ‘systematic assessment by local authorities [such as the Corporation for the City] to identify and protect vulnerable sites’ or stretches of road. In evidence, Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Lucy D’Orsi ‘contrasted the exhaustive legal duties to ensure health and safety of visitors against the lack of any comparable duty to protect from terrorism’. The report asked the Home Office to consider such guidance; and to CTSAs.
As for barriers on bridges, the inquests found ‘a lack of clear procedures for considering promptly the installation of temporary and permanent HVM measures, at a time when such procedures were needed. The police considered that the only means of installing HVM measures at short notice was to call upon the National Barrier Asset’, but only in response to a specific threat. In those circumstances any installation of permanent HVM measures would take months, most likely years.
Since the attack, TfL, the Corporation and City of London Police sit on a Public Realm Security Advisory Board, with the remit ‘to ensure that HVM measures can be installed in fast time’. TfL sits on a Security Review Committee chaired by the Met Police, that has commissioned work through the official CPNI (Centre for Protection of the National Infrastructure) on protective security.
As that work implies, the inquest found ‘good reason for concern about the arrangements which existed in mid-2017 for procuring and installing temporary protective security measures swiftly in response to emerging or newly appreciated threats’. As the report puts it, the coroner finds it ‘difficult for me to be satisfied that they are entirely sufficient’; for example, raising the question of good practice in cities outside London.
The coroner was satisfied with official review of the numbers of armed police; on the night, ‘armed officers arrived on the scene swiftly and were able to identify and neutralise the threat at a very early stage’.
As for counter-terror investigations of the suspects who went on to carry out the June 3 attack, the report said that while ‘MI5 must be able to prioritise and divert resources at times of greatest demand, the suspension of priority investigations is a matter of legitimate public concern’. According to the report, the case found a need ‘to improve communications and co-working’ between MI5 and counter-terror police officers working on the same investigation.
An in-law made a call about one of the attackers to the anti-terror hotline in September 2015. The report said that ‘to improve information management, efforts should be made to avoid recurrence of this problem’, of reports not being passed to MI5 officers working on a case.
As for one of the attackers getting a job in 2016 on London Underground in central London, the inquest heard that section 2(3) of the Security Service Act 1989 in general ‘prohibits MI5
from disclosing information to an employer with a view to affecting a person’s employment’. Should MI5 have informed TfL? The coroner pointed to the ‘vast number of jobs which could present opportunities for terrorist action’ and felt MI5 and police should not have the power to bar someone from jobs, only because ‘they were associated with MI5 investigations’.
As for the hiring of a van to make the ‘vehicle as a weapon’ attack, the report notes since ‘the Rental Vehicle Security Scheme’ including staff trained to report suspicious behavior, and a driver licence check, though some of the vehicle hire sector is not part of the voluntary scheme. The report asked the Department for Transport and the Home Office to consider whether the scheme should become compulsory, and have ‘real-time reporting of rentals and automated checking of the results’ against suspects.
As for the ‘massive operation by the emergency services to search for potential attackers’, and ambulance workers being turned away by police from areas felt to be unsafe, the report described this as ‘a terrible fact of marauding terrorist attacks, namely that it may be unclear for a period where casualties are and how best to get help to them’. The coroner noted that paramedics ‘unanimously volunteered to enter areas still classified as hot zones’, that is, areas felt to be of greatest threat where attackers may still be at large. While noting the difficult balance between giving medical care and danger to medical staff, the report felt that if whole areas were classed as out of bounds to ambulance staff, that would prevent ‘more nuanced judgments’.
The coroner notes new principles and guidance, whereby emergency responders (including paramedics) can ‘be sent into hot and warm zones even if they are not specially trained and equipped and/or do not have an armed police escort. The new guidance documents stress speed of deployment and contain new advice on decision-making in designation of hot and warm zones. They make clear that deployment of staff should not be delayed pending the arrival of’ 999 services commanders.
For the 58-page report visit https://www.judiciary.uk/publications/london-bridge-borough-market-terror-attack/.