The number of Islamism-inspired terrorism offences in the UK doubled in the five years between 2011 and 2015, a major new report will reveal this week.
In the same period, women’s involvement in Islamist terrorism on British soil trebled, as did the total number of terror offences.
And while bombing remains the most common type of offence planned or committed, there has been an eleven-fold increase in offences involving beheadings and stabbings since 1998.
Islamist Terrorism, a 1000-page study from The Henry Jackson Society think tank, reveals that Islamism-inspired terrorism offences have nearly doubled in the last five years, increasing by 92 per cent from 12 to 23 per year. In the same time, distinct terrorism cases have almost tripled, increasing from an average of five per year last decade to 14 per year between 2011 and 2015.
The report, which is the most in-depth examination into terrorism on British shores for a generation, will be launched this week at an event in Westminster where Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Mark Rowley, will comment on the findings.
The study reveals there has been a sharp increase in female participation in terror offences. Women’s involvement in Islamism-inspired terrorism has nearly tripled in five years from the previous 13 years. They accounted for just four per cent of offences between 1998 and 2010, but 11 per cent between 2011 and 2015.
And the statistics reveal British terrorists are getting younger – with more than half of all Islamism related offences being committed by individuals in their twenties.
Bombing remains the most commonly featured type of attack in Islamism-inspired terrorism offences, but offences involving beheadings and stabbings (planned or otherwise) increased eleven-fold from 1998 (up to 44 per cent of offences from four per cent).
Senior Research Fellow at The Henry Jackson Society and the report’s author, Hannah Stuart, commented:
“This report poses some particular challenges for the authorities. While it confirms widely held conceptions, such as the majority of UK terror offenders are young males, it also highlights new threats that have developed since the Millennium.
“Our security services will be particularly concerned that the major threat continues to be home grown – and that females are playing an ever increasing role in terrorism. Such a high concentration of offenders in London and Birmingham will also focus the minds of policy makers when it comes to deciding where to target our counter-terrorism efforts.
“As we continue to improve our policing of Islamism-inspired terrorism – the prevalent national security threat of our age – we should be aware that the vast majority of UK based terrorists do not act alone. This research shows that the overwhelming majority are part of wider networks, formed online and in person, with family and friends – and most have been radicalised here in the UK.
“While the statistics show that there has been a demonstrable rise in offending over the last two decades, the police have got better at identifying and prosecuting offenders. This report will inform them of the ever changing threats and, we hope, assist them in keeping our country safe.”
There is significant cause for alarm when it comes to homegrown terrorism. More than two-thirds (72 per cent) of Islamism-inspired terror offences in the UK are committed by British nationals or individuals holding dual British nationality.
More than half of offenders (52 per cent) are of Southern Asian ancestry, most commonly British Pakistani (25 per cent).
The majority are already known to authorities when they commit their offence (76 per cent) – and one quarter (26 per cent) of offenders have a previous criminal conviction.
London is revealed to be Britain’s terrorist hotspot. Most terrorists live in London at the time of arrest (43 per cent). The second most common region was the West Midlands with 18 per cent, 80 per cent of which are in Birmingham.
East London was home to one-half (50 per cent) of London-based offenders, the three most common boroughs being Tower Hamlets, Newham and Waltham Forest.
These numbers relate to a wider national trend, in which almost half of all Islamism-related terrorism offences are committed by individuals living in the 20 per cent most deprived neighbourhoods (48 per cent).
In the report’s foreword, former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation David Anderson QC, writes:
“Terrorism uses emotional shock in order to confuse and to divide. An important tool in understanding and defeating it is a reliable and dispassionate account of its perpetrators, their characteristics, their offences and their networks. Precisely such an account is provided in this encyclopedic work.”
The report finds that more than one-third (38 per cent) of Islamism-inspired terrorism offences between 1998 and 2015 were committed by the unemployed – and the overwhelming majority were committed by individuals raised as Muslim. One in six offenders (16 per cent) converted to Islam – in the majority of cases from Christianity – four times higher than converts among the Muslim population in the UK.
Terrorism offenders are revealed to be increasingly likely to be living at their family home at the time of committing their crime. The proportion of 2011-15 offences where the offender was living with their parents rose to 35 per cent from 21 per cent for offences between 1998 and 2010.
And in the 18-year period that the study assesses, the UK has become more efficient at successfully prosecuting terror offenders. Cases after 2011 were almost three times more likely to have been concluded within one year than cases before 2010.
Almost all Islamist-related terrorism convictions resulted in a custodial sentence (96 per cent). The most common sentence was between one year and four years in prison (35 per cent of all convictions).