March 8, 2022 4.30 pm

There are “active threats” of terrorism in Lincolnshire, councillors warned

“We mustn’t be complacent”

Councillors have been warned that there are “active” terrorist threats within Lincolnshire and councils should not be complacent.

Lincolnshire County Council’s Crime and Disorder Scrutiny Committee was given a review of the authority’s Prevent strategy on Tuesday.

Sara Barry, head of safer communities in Lincolnshire, said: “I can’t foresee a time when we won’t have a counterterrorism threat.

“We’ve seen some sad instances [including] the Manchester arena attack, which was a number of years ago now, but also the killing of an MP. So it’s still around and it’s impacted by events in this country and across the world.”

In their report, officers warned that right-wing extremism was of particular concern and pointed to the recent example of white supremacist Ben John from Lincoln, who “rose to fame” earlier this year after the judge ordered him to read books instead of going to prison.

John was convicted after the court heard how he became a part of the Extreme Right Wing online, a group with views encompassing racism, extreme fascism and Neo Nazism.

Forensic investigators also found he had downloaded a radical publication called the Anarchist Cookbook 2000, which contains instructions on how to make an explosive device.

More than 67,000 documents containing a wealth of white supremacist and anti-Semitic content were also found when police searched his home, with a hard drive stuffed inside a sock in Ben John’s bedroom.

His original sentence was overturned in January and he was instead sent to prison for two years.

“We mustn’t be complacent. There are active threats within Lincolnshire,” said Sara Barry.

However, she said Lincolnshire County Council’s was “in a really good place” and “punching above our weight” in trying to prevent the early signs of terror or radicalization.

There were strong warnings about the impact of COVID-19 lockdowns which had forced some into isolation and online.

“This is a space that’s often exploited now to those who are vulnerable to radicalisation,” she said.

Councillor Jackie Brockway raised concerns that Prevent should be looking at all types of extremism, pointing to what she called “extreme gaming” and “extreme dedication to any religion”.

She also had concerns over vulnerable children being swayed by charismatic adults.

Sara Barry agreed, but added: “Our focus is on the right wing, because what we have seen is that they are using online platforms – whether it be games or sort of a YouTube etc – to influence young people, and it starts off quite innocently and it can escalate quite rapidly.

“So this isn’t the dark web or anything secret squirrel, this is on mainstream platforms.”

Other councillors praised the work going on with engaging with women and teachers along with the wider community.

Prevent officer Paul Drury told members: “When we work with young people and right across our communities, we talk about all forms of extremism.”

He added: “When we take this message out, we don’t raise fears, we just make people aware that what’s actually in real life.”