16 February 2023

Police chief: ‘Several terror plots foiled in Britain last year were close calls’

16 February 2023

Several terror plots foiled at the last minute in Britain in 2022 were “close calls”, a police chief revealed as he described them as “goal line saves”.

Matt Jukes, the head of counter-terrorism policing, said would-be attackers had picked targets and were gathering weapons when officers intervened.

Last year we stopped eight late-stage terror plots. And the reality is that a number of those were close calls, I would describe several of them as goal line saves

Speaking at a briefing at Scotland Yard on Thursday, Mr Jukes said: “Last year we stopped eight late-stage terror plots.

“And the reality is that a number of those were close calls, I would describe several of them as goal-line saves.

“These are cases in which a subject had identified their target, had or was acquiring their weapon and where we have intervened to stop that attack taking place.”

The terror threat in the UK “feels a very enduring one”, he said, adding that it had changed over time and “evolved”, to now include “many more self-initiated terrorists than it had in the past.”

“This is making the threat harder to spot, it’s making the individuals harder to stop,” he added.

There are more than 800 live investigations and police have seen calls to the anti-terrorism hotline increase in the last year.

Meanwhile the counter-terrorism internet referral unit, which works to tackle terror threats online, examined 2,500 items of extremist or terrorist content last year and about 5,000 pieces were removed, he said.

Although 2022 was the first year since 2016 in which no-one was killed or seriously injured in the UK in a terror attack, Mr Jukes warned: “There is still far too much hateful, extremist material motivating individuals online that is exhibited in a prevalence of misogyny, racism, antisemitism, homophobia, and clearly all of that gets mixed in with terrorist ideologies.

“We’re seeing a relatively small number but increasing number of references to incel culture … and to school massacres.”

When later asked if counter-terror police had been involved in thwarting  plots by people trying to stage school massacre-style attacks, he replied: “Yes, absolutely.

“We have absolutely seen cases in which we’ve intervened with young people to prevent them going on potentially to carry out attacks in their school.”

Mr Jukes suggested “hundreds, not thousands” of reports of potential threats of this nature were made to the counter-terror hotline, adding: “It’s a real threat, which we’ve seen in individual cases.”

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox