Keeping Communities Safe from Terrorism and Extremism

Three men from Stoke-on-Trent have now been sentenced after they admitted their involvement in preparing for acts of terrorism. A fourth man has pleaded guilty to possession of an article for terrorist purposes.

The four were part of a wider network of nine, including men from Cardiff and London. Four of those men pleaded guilty to a preparing to detonate an explosive devise at the London Stock Exchange.

This outcome has been in no small part down to the many members of the local Muslim community who, a number of years ago, raised concerns with us about the activities of these individuals. Hopefully, we have gone some way to repaying their initial trust and confidence in us. We would like to thank the community for this.

Staffordshire Police played a key part in this investigation which was coordinated by the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit in partnership with the Security Service, CPS and the Metropolitan Police and South Wales police forces.

The fact that the four Stoke-on-Trent men pleaded guilty to the charges they faced demonstrates the robustness of the evidence put in front of them and the rigour of the prosecution case.

Three of the Stoke-on-Trent offenders have received an indeterminate prison sentence, this means they must serve the full minimum term of at least 8 years, before being considered for release. At this stage if it’s believed they still pose a danger to the public they will remain in custody.

It’s important to re-iterate that our initial suspicions about the activities of these men came about as a direct result of concerns from members of the local Muslim community.

Whenever concerns are raised by members of the community, Staffordshire Police has a duty to respond and to ensure public safety.

Three of the defendants had their houses searched in July 2008 as part of Operation Aragorn. The fourth was closely involved in the group but did not have his home searched.

Operation Aragorn was a complex case and we carried out a thorough, proportionate and professional investigation to establish the facts.

During our initial searches we recovered a considerable amount of information which we examined carefully and methodically for its evidential value. This consisted of over ½ million computer files and other printed and electronic material which was pain-stakingly reviewed and assessed.

At the time, we worked closely with special case lawyers at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). They reviewed all of the evidence and advised that there was little likelihood of a successful prosecution. As a result the matter was dropped. However, without going into too much detail about our tactics and methods, our interest and close
monitoring of the group did not stop, it very much continued.

It was acknowledged in court that other projects had been discussed among the wider group – including the possibility of targeting pubs in Stoke-on-Trent. However, these plans were not in any way considered to be well developed and no specific targets were ever agreed.

It’s also important to remember what the four Stoke-on-Trent defendants pleaded guilty to. Three admitted involvement in a plot to set up a terrorist training camp overseas or assisting others to travel abroad to engage in training for acts of terrorism and the other to possession of information for a terrorist purpose.

When we took action to make the arrests in December 2010, it was on the basis of an imminent concern for public safety but this was not related to any targets in Stoke-on-Trent.

Our local police officers and staff work on a daily basis alongside our local communities to address the concerns and issues that affect their lives. These strong community links help us to listen to the views of local people to deal with their concerns.

We can only make it more difficult for extremists and terrorists to operate by working closely with our communities. While we plan and prepare, the public can play their role by remaining calm and vigilant and reporting anything suspicious to the police.

Local neighbourhood officers are already speaking to members of our communities across Stoke-on-Trent to give them reassurance and our ongoing commitment to them to continue our work to keep our communities safe.

Thank you for your ongoing support

Chief Inspector Adrian Roberts- Local Policing Team Commander

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