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Health and social care data to support anti-terrorism effort


Parliamentary Correspondent

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Terror suspects will be targeted using the same data sharing approach used to trap sex offenders, under plans set out by counterterrorism chiefs.

Health staff and social workers will be told if certain patients are at risk of radicalisation or may make contact with extremist groups, so that they can use their local expertise to give appropriate support.

The director general of MI5 and the Metropolitan Police commissioner have said the move is being made in response to recommendations made in the official report following the 2017 terrorism attacks.

Andrew Parker and Cressida Dick say they want to to pursue the multi-agency approach in situations where an intrusive investigation was not justified.

“This means sharing intelligence with a wider range of partner bodies than before, such as health and social services, to make use of local expertise,” they have written in The Times.

“Several pilot projects are running with a view to introducing a national scheme. This approach has parallels with how the authorities manage the risk posed by sexual or violent offenders.”

In the article, the pair add: “There is no magic solution but there are valuable gains to be made by going further in data analytics and related technologies with parts of the private sector.

“We do not have the resources or legal justification to actively monitor those many thousands of individuals.”

Trials under way

The trial schemes are under way in London, Birmingham and Manchester, involving a small number of individuals already known to the security service but who are not subjects of interest at present.

Intelligence shared by the schemes, referred to as national multi-agency centres, will not be shared with school teachers, it is understood.

Nevertheless, the plans are likely to be criticised by human rights groups for potentially criminalising suspects who may not have been convicted of any offence.

The policy follows the terrorist attacks in 2017 at Westminster Bridge, Manchester Arena, London Bridge and Finsbury Park.

An investigation by barrister David Anderson, the then-independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, found the Manchester attack might have been prevented because MI5 had intelligence about the suicide bomber, Salman Abedi, “whose true significance was not appreciated at the time”.

The leader of the later assault at London Bridge struck while under investigation by MI5, his report said.

The latest move also follows others aimed at improving the sharing of intelligence on potential terrorists. A few weeks ago the Home Office said that it plans to build an interactive counter-terrorism platform, and it is planning to use a natural language processing analysis platform to support its efforts.

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