Editor, IFSEC Global

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James Moore is the Editor of IFSEC Global, the leading online publication for security and fire news in the industry. James writes, commissions, edits and produces content for IFSEC Global, 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.
November 15, 2021

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UK raises terror threat level to ‘severe’ following explosion at Liverpool hospital

Following an explosion at Liverpool Women’s Hospital on Sunday 14th November, the UK has raised its terror threat level to ‘severe’.

‘Severe’ is the second highest threat level that can be set in the UK, meaning that an “attack is highly likely” – only ‘critical’ lies above this.

The change from ‘substantial’, which the UK had been under since February 2021, is a direct response to an explosion outside a hospital in Liverpool on Sunday, which police have declared a terror incident. The motivation for the attack is said to be ‘unclear’ at present, though police believe they know the identity of the attacker and have since arrested four people in association.

It is reported that a passenger in a taxi took an improvised explosive device into the vehicle, which exploded as the vehicle arrived outside the hospital reception.

Home Secretary, Priti Patel, has said the decision to raise the threat level was made in conjunction with the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, due to two incidents (including the Liverpool attack) occurring in the last month.

A COBRA meeting was chaired on the afternoon of 15th November. Ms Patel said: “The Joint Terror Analysis Centre, JTAC, are now increasing the United Kingdom’s threat level from substantial to severe. The reason is that what we saw yesterday is the second incident in a month.

“We continue to work with our world class security, intelligence and policing services and representatives from those agencies… but of course, we as a government, I as Home Secretary, continue to work with everyone when it comes to the security of our country and making sure we are taking all the necessary steps required.”

The threat level was also raised to severe last year in November 2020, following incidents in Vienna, Nice and Paris.

Who decides upon the terror threat level?

The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC) is the government organisation responsible for assessing the UK’s terror alert level. Part of MI5 but working as an independent operation, the department makes the decision based upon all the intelligence it has available, relating to international terrorism, at home and overseas. Representatives come from 16 different government departments and agencies, with its head reporting directly to MI5’s Director General.

Established in 2003, JTAC works closely with the International Counter-Terrorism branch at MI5, which also manages investigations into terrorist activity in the UK.

Threat levels are decided upon a range of variables, including but not limited to:

  • Available intelligence – this includes the level and nature of current terrorist activity across the world and in nearby countries
  • Terrorist capability
  • Terrorist intentions
  • Timescale

The five threat levels set by JTAC are:

  • Low: an attack is highly unlikely
  • Moderate: an attack is possible, but not likely
  • Substantial: an attack is likely
  • Severe: an attack is highly likely
  • Critical: an attack is highly likely in the near future

Since the list was first published on 1 August 2006, the UK’s threat level from international terrorism has never fallen below ‘substantial’.

The Government has released updated guidance for increasing the protection of crowded places from terrorist attack. Documents cover everything from managing risk and building response plans, through to advice when guarding against different threats such as bombs, or vehicles being used as weapons. The Crowded Places guidance is available here. 

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