This week’s main UK defence and security news has centered on the consequences of the terrorist attack on a Christmas Market in Berlin, which saw twelve people killed when a truck was driven into a crowd of shoppers. The suspect, Anis Amar, was subsequently killed in a shootout in Milan. The Daily Telegraph reports that armed police patrols have been stepped up at Christmas markets in Britain. Scotland Yard has said it is reviewing its plans for “protecting public events” in London over Christmas and New Year. The security services have previously warned of the heightened risk of attacks on “large crowds of soft target civilians” by terrorists. Last week, a senior UK terrorism official in the city said an attack in Europe around Christmas time had been expected, but there had been no specific intelligence of any plot.
Greater Manchester Police said the force had strengthened their presence at the city’s markets, which have almost 350 stalls spread across 10 sites. Plans to close some of London's most famous streets around Buckingham Palace over the festive period have been brought forward in light of the Berlin attack. From this week, Constitution Hill, the Queen Victoria Memorial, Spur Road, Link Road and The Mall – up to the junction with Marlborough Road – will be closed at specific times on the days of Changing the Guard. Additional barriers will also be in place to maintain security for the guard movements, Scotland Yard said. The force stated: “The Metropolitan Police has detailed plans for protecting public events over the Christmas and New Year period… These already recognise that the threat level is at 'severe', meaning an attack is highly likely, and have considered a range of threats, including the use of large vehicles.”
Incidents such as these reveal and highlight the importance of having the ability to ‘surge’ armed policing capability during periods of vulnerability to terrorist attack. As the second largest armed policing force in the UK, the MDP has a vital role to play in the country’s national security – a point the DPF will continue to emphasise
MoD reveals ‘hundreds’ of items have gone missing
The Sun reports that chainsaws, Land Rover cars and a sword are among hundreds of items reported to have been stolen from MoD sites. According to figures released to Parliament, over 400 items worth more than £250 each went missing from official Government buildings in the last two year. The list also included a replica sniper rifle and numerous pairs of night vision goggles. The total cost for the items has not yet been released, but it is thought to add up to thousands of pounds. Other big items to have been taken on MoD property include aircraft containers, a kayak and three rowing machines. The information was provided by Defence Minister Mark Lancaster in a letter sent to Labour MP Luciana Berger, who requested the figures.
The article notes that Ministers have cut the number of MDP officers from 3,661 in 2010-11 to just 2,666 in 2015, and noted that statistics from earlier this year showed that in 2009 there were just eight unauthorised entries to UK military sites, but by 2015, this had soared to 45 per year. An MoD spokesman said: “We take the security of our sites very seriously and have robust procedures to deter and prevent losses and thefts, which are constantly reviewed.”
The article can be seen as providing positive coverage for the MDP as it demonstrates that the cuts the force has suffered have had a direct bearing on the security of MoD facilities. We will contact Ms Burger to brief her on the role of the MDP in providing security to MoD sites.
New UK defense agency to oversee construction of new Trident submarines
Defence News reports that a new MoD agency being set up to oversee the construction of a fleet of nuclear missile submarines for the Royal Navy will start operations next April, with ex-railway construction boss Robert Holden named as the interim chairman. In an annual update to Parliament on progress with Britain’s £31bn nuclear deterrent program, Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said that subject to formal approval, staff currently employed on the project at the Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) organisation will start moving across to the new executive agency from 1st April.
The new organisation being set-up by Mr Holden is a key part in the government’s effort to replace the Vanguard-class submarines currently providing Britain’s nuclear deterrence. Its creation follows Sir Michael’s 2015 warning to industry and others not to repeat the delays and cost overruns of the Astute hunter-killer program when it builds the new Trident missile submarines.
With the exception of the establishment of this new body, the update on the Trident programme did not contain any new information. The DPF will continue to highlight the importance of the MDP in protecting the Trident system and its supporting infrastructure to leading policymakers as the Trident renewal programme progresses.
Two soldiers and accomplice sentenced over SAS equipment theft
The BBC reports that two soldiers and an accomplice have been sentenced for stealing £45,000 of SAS equipment from an Army camp. Sgt Craig Davenport and Sgt Stephen Suffield took items including body armour, distraction grenades, flares, and night-vision goggles from Stirling Lines Army Camp in Hereford. Portsmouth Crown Court heard these were then passed to Andrew Stevens, who sold globally through contacts on Ebay. All three admitted conspiracy to commit theft.
Military gaming business owner Stevens, 41, from Horndean in Hampshire – who was arrested after radioactive material in night-vision goggles set off an alert in Heathrow airport in June 2015 – was sentenced to two years in prison. Thirty-year-old Afghanistan and Iraq veteran Davenport, from Crewe in Cheshire, was jailed for 22 months. Suffield, 28, who resigned from the Royal Logistics Corp in Chippenham, was handed an 18-month prison sentence suspended for two years
Royal Marine reservist jailed for selling guns and explosives
The Daily Telegraph reports that a Royal Marine reservist has been jailed for 14-and-a-half years after being caught trying to sell stolen weapons to undercover investigators. Martin Shannon, 43, from Southampton, stole guns, ammunition, explosives and grenades from his base in Poole over four years and buried them in the New Forest. But he was eventually caught when undercover officers from the National Crime Agency set up a sting in which they posed as buyers.
Sentencing, Judge Richard Marks QC highlighted the “breach of trust” of Shannon as a serving Royal Marine reservist. The fact that once he had handed the guns into criminal hands he would have no control over them was also a serious feature of the case, he said. However, Judge Marks accepted that while on active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, Shannon had suffered from PTSD which affected him “particularly badly”.
MoD staff ‘lose at least one laptop a day’
The Daily Mail reports that laptops, computers and data sticks containing sensitive information went missing from the MoD at a rate of more than one a day, new figures show. At least 1,000 items were reported lost or stolen across government since the general election. The losses are likely to be much higher as a number of departments refused to release the information – saying such details would be useful to criminals. Most of the departments that did disclose information about missing items refused to say if they contained sensitive or confidential information. The MoD was the worst offender, as it recorded 759 laptops and computers as being lost and 32 stolen.
An MoD spokesman said: “the MOD treats information security as a top priority. All incidents of equipment going missing or stolen are thoroughly investigated and may result in disciplinary action.”
‘Marine A’ denied bail ahead of murder appeal
The Daily Telegraph reports that Royal Marine who was jailed for murdering a Taliban captive will spend Christmas behind bars after the Lord Chief Justice refused to grant him bail ahead of an appeal against his conviction. Sgt Alexander Blackman, who was described in court as having been a “model prisoner” during his three years in prison, was granted an expedited appeal hearing, set for late January, to establish whether military prosecutors will accept new evidence about his mental state when he shot a mortally wounded insurgent at point blank range, in 2011.
However, in his ruling, Lord Thomas said: “Despite the powerful new psychiatric and other evidence, the question of whether a verdict of diminished responsibility should be substituted or a re-trial ordered is a matter of dispute on the part of the Crown”, adding that in these circumstances, bail would not be appropriate. He also said that even if Blackman’s conviction was reduced to manslaughter, it was not clear that a fresh sentence would “definitely” equate to a prison stretch shorter than the three years the former Marine has already served.
MDP carry out operation in Army surplus store
Kent Live reports that the MDP have carried out an operation at an Army surplus store in Tunbridge Wells. Eyewitnesses said around eight men in three vehicles arrived in a side street near Kit Monster on Grosvenor Road. The police spent at least three hours in the shop, according to nearby shopkeepers who saw the situation unfold. A police investigation is ongoing. An MOD spokesman said: “We can confirm that Ministry of Defence Police were involved in an operation. We cannot, however, comment further on a current police investigation.”
Whilst the spotlight often falls on the theft of high-profile articles such as weapons and laptops, the opportunity exists for individuals with access to MoD facilities to steal more mundane items before selling them to outlets such as military surplus stores. In either scenario, the MDP has an important role to play in the disruption of crime and the recovery of property that the DPF will continue to highlight.
Two British soldiers to be charged over IRA leader's 1972 murder
The Guardian reports that two retired soldiers have become the first members of the military to be charged with murder in connection with a Troubles-related death in Northern Ireland. They are being prosecuted over the killing of Official IRA commander John McCann, who was shot dead in central Belfast in 1972. They are known as Soldier A and Soldier C and are believed to have been paratroopers. Charging the pair 42 years after McCann’s death will provoke controversy over the retrospective prosecution of members of the security forces over killings related to the Troubles.
A Public Prosecution Service (PPS) spokesperson said: “Following a careful consideration of all the available evidence, it has been decided to prosecute two men for the offence of murder.” The Police Service of Northern Ireland said on Friday that it was not behind the decision to prosecute the two ex-soldiers.