Vehicle rental companies could have a larger role to play in fighting terrorism following a new Government plan announced yesterday.
Home secretary Sajid Javid launched an updated counter-terrorism strategy aimed at reducing the risk to the public and preventing safe spaces for terrorists to operate.
Central to the new strategy is working in partnership at international, national and local level, between government, agencies, the private sector and communities.
National media, including the Mirror, Guardian and Independent, says part of this will see Javid invite suspiciously-minded car and van rental administrators to flag up when people under suspicion rent a vehicle.
Javid said: “As the threat evolves, so must our response.
“Ultimately, our approach is about ensuring that there are no safe spaces for terrorists to operate – internationally, in the UK or online.
“Our greatest strength lies not only in what we do, but who we are and the values and freedoms we hold dear. That is why everyone has a part to play in confronting terrorism.”
The Government said its counter-terrorism strategy will be underpinned by new legislation to enable the police and security services to disrupt terrorist threats earlier. This legislation will:
- amend existing terrorism offences to update them for the digital age and to reflect contemporary patterns of radicalisation and to close gaps in their scope, including making it an offence to repeatedly view streamed video content online
- strengthen the sentencing framework for terrorism, including by increasing the maximum penalty for certain offences, to ensure that the punishment properly reflects the crime and to better prevent re-offending
- enable further terrorism offences committed overseas to be prosecuted in the UK courts
The Government said it will work more closely with the private sector on a range of issues including protecting the UK's economic and physical infrastructure, gaining faster alerts to suspicious purchases, continuing to make it difficult for terrorists to use the internet for propaganda and ensuring the Government has critical access to communications.
The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), which recently published a report – Vehicles as weapons: a threat and policy assessment for the UK vehicle rental sector - welcomed the home secretary’s announcement.
The trade body, whose members are collectively responsible for almost five million vehicles on UK roads, has worked with law enforcement organisations and government to identify and agree tactics to reduce the risk following the spate of terrorist attacks in 2017 where rental vehicles were used as ramming weapons.
Gerry Keaney, chief executive of the BVRLA, said: “Our sector has always taken security very seriously and the BVRLA has long-established processes in place to share information on the latest security threats and best practice, and we continue to work with government to explore ways of how we can share data more effectively.
”Our sector remains committed to working closely with government agencies to report suspicious activity and as the leading trade body in this area we have increased the amount of training available.
“But our members and their employees cannot be expected to do the job of law enforcement, which is a government function requiring specialist skills.
“We are working hard to increase awareness across the sector of the threat of terrorism and have recently developed a series of training resources available free-of-charge to both members and non-members.
“The training tools have been designed to be delivered in-house by non-experts to those operating in the daily rental sector.”