Report of the Cabinet Member for Communities and Culture
The Safeguarding Overview and Scrutiny Committee had requested detail on the Prevention of Future Deaths Report prepared by the Chief Coroner following the Fishmonger’s Hall terror attack on 29 November 2019. Whilst the terror attack had taken place in London, the attacker had been a resident of Stafford at that time. Originally he was from Stoke-on-Trent and had been released from prison in 2018 on licence after serving a sentence for terrorist offences and was wearing an electronic tag. The Committee wanted to consider whether relevant lessons had been learnt and actions taken by appropriate agencies to prevent future similar events occurring.
The Fishmonger Hall event had been a conference to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Learning Together, a programme run by the Cambridge Institute of Criminology, to help offenders reintegrate into society following release from prison. Although the attacker had been banned from entering London under the terms of his release, he had been granted a one-day exemption to attend the event. The inquest held into the deaths of his victims had concluded that he had been insufficiently monitored, identifying contributing factors as an unreasonable belief in his rehabilitation, a lack of information sharing between agencies and inadequate security planning at the event.
The Coroner addressed his report to ten organisations that were required to provide a response to the matters of concern he had identified. Staffordshire County Council was not one of the listed organisations, however Staffordshire Police, West Midlands Police and the Probation Service were. These organisations responded to the Coroner in January 2022.
The Coroner’s Report had made twenty-five recommendations regarding the matters of concern. Recommendations that had an impact on Staffordshire were around:
a) the risk assessment process
b) clarity over agency leadership
c) prison actions to manage radicalisation
d) procedural issues
The Scrutiny Committee considered details of changes made as a result of the Coroner’s recommendations within the Probation Service, the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit (WMCTU) and Staffordshire Police.
Some concerns were shared that the attacker’s name and heritage had been identified within the report. This detail had been reported at the time of the incident and was in the public domain on the Home Office website. However, having discussed in detail these concerns, and acknowledging that there is threat from any form of extremism, it was agreed that the words ‘Pakistani descent’ would be removed from the report in future.
Members were aware there had been ten organisations found collectively responsible, with 25 recommendations made. They received detail of improvements made around these recommendations, including data sharing; changes to counter terrorism policing with clearer lines of responsibility; clearer links into the local Multi-agency public protection arrangements (MAPPA); and extensive changes to the Probation Service.
Embedding change took time and Members sought reassurance that the disruption that change can bring would not in itself create risks. Many of the changes had already been made and were working well, with assurances through Contest (the counter terrorism strategy) that these have been managed well.
Members were aware that the Local Authority (LA) had a degree of scrutiny on the work of the Commissioner through the Police, Fire and Crime Panel. They asked what level of scrutiny the LA had on the Probation Service. The Probation Service was an integral partner on the Safer and Stronger Communities Strategy Group which was chaired by the Cabinet Member for Culture and Communities and for which the Chairman and Vice Chairmen received a briefing.
a) Whilst the contents of an agenda pack cannot be changed retrospectively after the meeting has taken place, the nationality of the attacker will be removed from future reports, and
b) the changes made in response to the Coroner’s recommendations be welcomed.