Severe Threat: What It Means When The UK's Terror Threat Level Rises

·4-min read
The UK's terror threat level has been raised following an explosion in Liverpool on Remembrance Sunday (Photo: PAUL ELLIS via Getty Images)
The UK's terror threat level has been raised following an explosion in Liverpool on Remembrance Sunday (Photo: PAUL ELLIS via Getty Images)

Downing Street has confirmed that the UK’s terror threat has increased to the second-highest level available, “severe”, after an incident in Liverpool.

An explosive device was detonated outside Liverpool’s Women Hospital two minutes before the 11am silence on Remembrance Sunday in a taxi.

The taxi driver, David Perry, allegedly locked the doors of his cab before escaping himself, limiting the explosion just to the car itself – the taxi passenger who is thought to have activated the explosive was the only fatality.

Although Perry’s quick thinking meant a major catastrophe was averted and four people have already been arrested, the security services are clearly taking this terror threat seriously.

Why has the UK’s terror level changed now?

Home secretary Priti Patel explained on Monday afternoon that the prime minister had chaired an emergency Cobra meeting and formally identified the Liverpool explosion as “a terrorist incident”.

She explained that “the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre are now increasing the UK’s threat level from substantial to severe”, because this was the second terrorist incident in a month referring to the fatal stabbing of MP David Amess.

She added: “That means we continue to work with our world class security, intelligence and policing services – representatives from those agencies.”

The home secretary also said there was a “live investigation” happening into the events outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital.

Police said the reasoning behind the explosion on Sunday remains unclear, while the taxi passenger’s identity is known but they have not yet disclosed it.

Police have also searched two properties and found “significant items” at one of them.

The gov.uk website explains: “The decision has been driven by two terrorist incidents in the past month, reflecting the diverse, complex and volatile nature of the terrorist threat in the UK.”

What does a ‘severe’ threat mean?

A “severe” terror threat is the second highest alert level in the UK and means “an attack is highly likely”.

Only the “critical” level is above it – which means an attack is highly likely in the near future.

The threat levels are split into five distinct categories; low, moderate and substantial are the three lowest alert levels.

Threat levels are decided independently of government ministers and the security services take several factors – timescale, terrorist intentions, terrorist capabilities, and available intelligence – into consideration before changing the threat level.

There is currently no intelligence to suggest an attack is going to happen any time soon.

What happens when the UK is at this level?

Patel told the press: “It is important that the public remains alert to the threat from terrorism but not alarmed.

“I urged anyone with information or who suspects any suspicious activity to report it to the police.”

The gov.uk website also explained: “Threat levels are determined independently of ministers and are a tool for security practitioners, including the police to use in determining what protective security response may be required.”

When were we last at ‘severe’?

The UK’s terror threat was downgraded from “severe” to “substantial” in February 2021, after there was a “significant reduction” in terror incidents in Europe.

It had been at “severe” since November 2020, after four people were shot dead in Vienna, another three killed by a knife attack in Nice and a teacher was murdered in Paris.

The last time it was pushed to “critical” was back in September 2017 for the Parsons Green train bombing.

What does this mean for the British public?

MI5′s website explained: “Threat levels in themselves do not require specific responses from the public.”

“Vigilance is vital regardless of the current national threat level. It is especially important given the current national threat,” it continued.

“Sharing national threat levels with the general public keeps everyone informed. It explains the context for the various security measures (for example airport security or bag searches) which we may encounter in our daily lives.”

The security services also request the public contact the Anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 789 321 if they have any information, or 999 to report urgent threats.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.

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