UK makes moves for earlier action against terror plotters

LONDON — Britain plans to strengthen counter-terrorism laws to make prosecutions easier and to instruct its security services to share some intelligence data about potential extremists with local authorities.

The approach spelled out Monday by Home Secretary Sajid Javid in his first major speech is designed to make earlier intervention possible in a bid to thwart extremist attacks posed by Islamic States adherents and UK-based rightwing groups.

"One of the lessons from 2017 was that we need to work more broadly and share that data more locally," Javid said, referring to the multiple extremist attacks that rocked Britain last year.

The new policy means some sensitive information about possible extremists will be shared with local councils, local police and other government agencies.

A written explanation of the new policy published Monday says: "By alerting a greater number of agencies to individuals of potential concern, we will improve our ability to assess the risk they pose whilst also being able to bring to bear a broader, larger set of local interventions."

The new "multi-agency approaches" will be used first in London, Manchester and the West Midlands, which includes the city of Birmingham.

The published paper also calls for better links between security services and private businesses so faster action can be taken when suspicious purchases are made and when there is a need to shut down online "safe spaces" exploited by extremists.

New laws will also be introduced with the intent of allowing police and security services to intervene more quickly.

The home secretary said there are "anomalies" in U.K. laws that must be updated to keep up with technology, citing for example statutes that make it "clearly illegal" to download videos that encourage terrorism but don't prohibit streaming them, which has become more common in the past five years.

He said 12 Islamist threats and four extreme right-wing threats had been foiled by security services since March 2017.

The official threat level in Britain is set at "severe," indicating authorities believe an attack is highly likely.

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