Managing Editor, IFSEC Insider

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James Moore is the Managing Editor of IFSEC Insider, the leading online publication for security and fire news in the industry.James writes, commissions, edits and produces content for IFSEC Insider, including articles, breaking news stories and exclusive industry reports. He liaises and speaks with leading industry figures, vendors and associations to ensure security and fire professionals remain abreast of all the latest developments in the sector.
July 19, 2023


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Counter terror

Update to UK’s counter terrorism strategy, CONTEST 2023, focuses on evolving nature of terrorist threat

Speaking in Westminster, UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman launched the UK’s updated counter-terrorism strategy, CONTEST 2023, on 18 July.

Originally published 20 years ago, the aim of the UK’s long-running counter terrorism strategy, CONTEST, is to reduce the risk from terrorism to the UK, its citizens and interest overseas.

Based on four themes – Prevent, Pursue, Protect and Prepare – the last formal update was made in 2018. The UK has since seen nine declared attacks and 39 disrupted attacks of terrorism.

The underlying message from the Home Secretary’s speech revolved around an evolving terror threat, and a requirement to be more forceful in identifying and pursing terrorist actors and groups. Key messages included:

  • Despite the progress made by the likes of the UK’s Counter-Terrorism Operations Centre and Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, the terror threat endures
  • Crucially, the nature of the threat has changed, and is now less predictable, and harder to detect and investigate
  • Technology and international cooperation will be vital to the UK’s counter terror protection strategy
  • A more forceful approach to identifying and acting on terrorist suspects
  • Challenging hard-line ideologies that do not represent the majority of the groups they claim to represent

As Braverman herself put it: “Despite the prevalence of lower sophistication attacks in the UK, the threat today is more diverse, dynamic and complex”.

Pointing towards more fragmented terrorist networks in her speech, the Home Secretary noted threats from a range of groups – including Islamist and right-wing extremists, hostile state actors such as Russia, China and Iran, and threats in Northern Ireland.

Read the full 74-page CONTEST 2023 counter terrorism strategy, here.

Updating CONTEST – a refresh “to use every lever to identify and intervene”

Braverman outlined the four main pillars of the CONTEST strategy. Here, we summarise each section of the speech below:


Designed to be “an early intervention programme” to stop people becoming terrorists in the first place, it relies on frontline professionals. Following a review, a “cultural timidity within Prevent” was found which negated referrals of extremist ideologies.


Suella Braverman, UK Home Secretary (Credit: Creative commons licence)

As a result, Prevent will develop a more “nuanced and evidence-based approach to identification and assessment”. Braverman has issued instructions that “Prevent focuses solely on security, not political correctness”.

There will also be investment in identifying future threats, and a commitment to “enabling legal access” to data required to investigate and disrupt terrorist activity.


The aim of Pursue is to detect, investigate and disrupt terrorist activity. In response to the potential for groups to spring up in new places, the Government has outlined its intent to build relationships with more countries’ counter-terrorism systems.


Related to the consideration of strengthening defences against terrorist attacks, the Home Office says it “continuously reviews our protective security approaches”.

Within the speech, Braverman referenced research into the use of vehicles as a weapon and the Martyn’s Law Bill – in response to the 2017 Manchester Arena terror attack where 22 people lost their lives – which is currently undergoing parliamentary scrutiny, to improve security at publicly accessible venues.

Additional funding to protect places of worship and faith community centres was further highlighted, alongside improved screening solutions and capabilities in border security environments.


Seeking to minimalise the impact of attacks and reduce their future likelihood, Prepare takes into account that the fact that the risk cannot reduce the risk entirely.

Once again, the 2017 Manchester Arena attack was referenced in the speech, as the Home Secretary outlined the need to learn lessons from the Inquiry to ensure emergency services “work most effectively together”.

Read more about the findings of Phase 2 of the Manchester Arena Inquiry here, which focused on the emergency services response and found it to be uncoordinated and risk averse.

An evolving terror threat

Concluding, Braverman said: “The threat continues to evolve and is increasing – meaning that we must also evolve, faster and better, to stay ahead of it and to keep the British people safe.

“And partnerships are more important than ever, in a world where we face a broader range of threats. We must work and will work together as one system, with the public and our international allies to reduce the risk from terrorism.

“Where states make use of terrorist groups as proxies we will use our counter-terrorism powers, capabilities, and expertise to protect the UK.

“Alongside our counter-terrorism toolkit, the powers in the National Security Act will help to keep the UK safe by making it even harder for those states who seek to conduct hostile acts against the UK.

“We will use all of the tools and resources at our disposal. And we will confront every challenge fearlessly and honestly. There is no room for complacency, political correctness, or cultural timidity.”


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