Yorkshire communities ‘vulnerable to right wing and Islamist extremists’

editorial image

Communities in Yorkshire are “vulnerable” to extreme views and have the potential to produce violent right wing and Islamist extremists, a council report has warned.

Calderdale Council in Halifax is one of many councils reviewing their approach to meet a new legal duty to prevent people being drawn into terrorism.

An English Defence League protest a Calerdale magistrates’ court as 25 Asian men appeared on charges of Historic child sex charges. Pictures: Ross Parry Agency

An English Defence League protest a Calerdale magistrates’ court as 25 Asian men appeared on charges of Historic child sex charges. Pictures: Ross Parry Agency

A council report warns that there is more to do in Calderdale to satisfy the new counter-terrorism laws.

Report author Andrew Pitts, council head of neighbourhoods, says Calderdale is vulnerable to extremist elements from Islamist, right wing and environmental groups.

He said “historic incidents have demonstrated that individuals are susceptible to Al Qaeda extremist influences” and in 2007 two Calderdale residents were sentenced for disseminating terrorism-related information.

Mr Pitts added: “Areas of the borough are potentially vulnerable to extreme right wing elements and have the potential to produce violent extremists.”

Asylum seekers with mental health problems or those from “high risk areas” may also pose a risk.

His report to councillors notes that the recent charging of 25 men - some from Calderdale - with child sexual abuse had led to demonstrations by the English Defence League.

Mr Pitts also warns of anti-Islamic and anti-Semitic hate incidents.

“We continue to monitor the threats from all extremist groups and respond accordingly.

“We have not experienced any significant increase in hate incidents. However we continue to monitor through our established processes and work closely with the Police and voluntary organisations to ensure any incidents are reported and victims receive appropriate support.”

He said Calderdale recently became one of seven areas supported by the Government’s ‘Prevent’ strategy to combat extremism. Leeds and Bradford are among 30 ‘priority’ areas.

“Although supported status does not bring in direct funding it does enable us to bid for available funding and support for projects and activities to help us to raise awareness of the Prevent agenda and support those most vulnerable.”

A Bradford Council spokesman said its 2013 action plan to tackling extremism is currently under review.

A Kirklees spokeswoman said: “Responding to Prevent becoming a statutory function is business as usual for us in Kirklees.”

She said the focus was on “building strong cohesive communities.”

A spokeswoman for the Leeds-based North East Counter Terrorism Unit said: “The UK faces a range of terrorist threats and those who pose a threat seek to further their cause through the radicalisation and recruitment of others.

“Through the national multi-agency led Prevent Strategy, partners work together to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism. Prevent challenges extremist ideology which supports terrorism, protects vulnerable people from the risk of being drawn into terrorism, and support sectors and institutions where there is a risk of radicalisation or opportunities to prevent it.

“Prevent addresses all forms of terrorist threat and some aspects of extremism, including Far Right Extremism. The strategy is flexible, and can address any new and emerging threats.

If you do have concerns about someone, you should call your local police, or dial 101. They’ll talk with you in confidence.”

The spokeswoman said the threat level indicated a terrorist attack is highly likely.

“The severe threat level indicates that it is highly likely that a terrorist attack could happen in the UK. Police and our partners continue to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week to protect the UK from a terrorist attack. We want people to understand the threat and be vigilant, to report anything that seems out of place or suspicious.

“Across the UK everybody, from law enforcement, to businesses, to the general public, has a role to play in keeping the UK safe from terrorism.

“We encourage people to report suspicious activity by calling the confidential Anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 789 321.”