27 September 2022

Four people referred for prosecution for flying drones after Queen’s death

27 September 2022

Four people were referred for prosecution by police for flying drones during the period after the Queen’s death, according to a senior counter-terrorism officer.

Most pilots identified were “hobbyists making innocent mistakes” but a minority were reported “based on what they were trying to do,” deputy assistant commissioner Matt Twist said.

The number of reports from members of the public to counter-terror police also shot up during Operation London Bridge, the plan for the days following the Queen’s death, reaching the monthly average in the space of just 10 days.

The period saw the biggest ever deployment of armed officers from across the UK, protecting crowds paying their respects and hundreds of foreign dignitaries who attended the funeral.

Mr Twist said the operation had been a “highly complex game of national Jenga involving vast quantities of concrete and steel” of equipment.

I am sorry to say that the threat from terrorism remains very real in the UK

Detailing the way in which the operation unfolded, the officer said around one in eight reports from the public to the police had generated useful information.

Forty drone flights were detected across London alone and counter-terror police received more than 800 reports of suspicious activity, Mr Twist, who is senior national coordinator for protect and prepare at Counter Terrorism Policing, said.

Speaking at the International Security Expo, an event bringing together the global security community in central London’s Olympia, he said: “Operation London Bridge was our largest ever deployment of hostile vehicle mitigation equipment. It was deployed for the full range of events across the country, then throughout the programme, redeployed for later events.

“This highly complex game of national Jenga involving vast quantities of concrete and steel lasted across the 12 days of operational activity.

“Our counter-UAV capability was fully utilised across the country, detecting a record 80 UAV flights requiring further investigation.

“This resulted in the seizure of drones and a number of pilots identified and spoken to – most were assessed as hobbyists making innocent mistakes, but four pilots were subsequently reported for prosecution based on what they were trying to do.

“These security-minded communications are very effective at these times when people may be more receptive to appropriately tailored messaging.

“The communications effort led to a significant increase in public reporting to CTP – receiving nearly a month’s average of reports in 10 days. Approximately one in eight generated information useful to us.”

That's what security is about - it's about making our society as open as it possibly can be but with the protections necessary to make sure we don't live in fear

It is not known whether a charging decision was made by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in relation to any of the four cases mentioned by DAC Twist.

Despite policing for the event having been planned for years, the officer said “on activation, it had to survive first contact.”

The success of the operation, which was “the biggest no-notice event in the country”, ended up representing the “very best” of police and their partners, he said.

DAC Twist defended the decision to use buses to transport dignitaries to the funeral service, saying it was the “only way to get people to the church on time.”

Protection was provided for more than 230 protected people through the programme and until international delegates departed the UK, he said.

He added that the threat of terrorism remained “very real” in Britain and one that the police remain committed to fighting in a changing landscape.

“We’ve had a major and momentous month which I believe has demonstrated the very best of policing and our security partnerships,” he said.

“I’m speaking to you from a very different Britain than the one at the start of the month. The death of Her Majesty the Queen has rightly been the nation’s focus and we pay tribute and celebrate her incredible life and legacy, and also welcome King Charles III.

“We also have a new Prime Minister and Cabinet; I have a new Metropolitan Police Commissioner who comes with a new vision and mandate to deliver significant reforms to improve the Met – specifically more trust, less crime and high standards.

“Reflecting beyond the last month and all of the changes we have seen, I am sorry to say that the threat from terrorism remains very real in the UK,” he said.

“It is also perhaps harder to spot and, therefore, harder to stop than it has been for a long time.”

His comments followed a speech by security minister Tom Tugendhat, who praised police for enabling the public to mourn safely.

Speaking at the same event on Tuesday, Mr Tugendhat said of the response from police and security services to the Queen’s funeral: “It’s easy to look at the face of it and say well, they closed down bits of London … what they actually did was ironically, they enabled people to mourn, they freed people to come together and they did what security really should do which is enable free people to associate, to communicate, to share, to grieve and to be part of a community.

“That’s what security is about, it’s about making our society as open as it possibly can be but with the protections necessary to make sure we don’t live in fear.”

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