8 June 2006

Source: http://cms.met.police.uk/news/met_comment/forest_gate_press_conference

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Forest Gate press conference

To view an edited clip of the press conference with AC Andy Hayman and DAC Rose Fitzpatrick earlier today, please click here.

Note: You will require Microsoft Windows, Media player to view this 5.68MB video file.

Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman, Specialist Operations, said:

We are a week on from last weeks events. There is an ongoing investigation and some of the comments around that investigation are very limited. It's been a time of reflection since last week. And our reflection has been informed by contact with the community. Both Rose and I have met regularly with them and some of the comments that they've given to us we've considered and we're going to now explain how we respond to some concerns that they have. Firstly we have been really struck with the level of support from the community - this has ranged from providing refreshments to officers working on cordons through to regular meetings with community representatives and ourselves. For that I thank you.

But I am also aware that in mounting this operation, we have caused disruption and inconvenience to many residents in Newham and for that, I apologise. In tackling the terrorist threat in the United Kingdom the police service is trying its utmost to work closely with all communities but in particular the Muslim community.

Given the nature of the threat I understand that some communities may be feeling confused or indeed angry with how the police are trying to ensure all our safety. I must emphasise the police operations are not targeted against any community or section of the community. We are working tirelessly to target criminals who are intent on spreading fear and terror amongst us all. How do we do that?

There are number of ways in which information is received by the police ranging from a telephone call to the Anti-Terrorist Hotline or more sophisticated means. Last week's operation was in response to very specific intelligence that if not acted upon would have posed an unacceptable threat to public safety particularly in that area.

I have already said earlier in the week that we had no choice but to take the action that we did in trying to prove or disprove this intelligence. To do otherwise we would have been failing in our duties to make London safer and protect all Londoners.

Conducting the house search and interviewing those that have been arrested are the immediate steps we take to prove or disprove that intelligence. I anticipate we will be completing our search in the next couple of days and therefore the neighbourhood will be able to return to normality very soon. We will continue to exhaust all lines of investigation until we are satisfied that the intelligence has been supported or refuted.

What that means is that whilst the threat of terrorism exists, similar police operations will be required. I can, however, give you my personal assurance that, in every case, before any decision to act is taken the most thorough and professional scrutiny of all available options will be undertaken - decisions will not be taken lightly

I am aware that there remains a great deal of public concern about the way in which the operation was carried out, and I want to clarify some of these details.

Having made a decision to mount an operation the planning must then take care of those in the premises, the wider public as well as police officer safety. The tragic murder of a police officer in 2004 who was engaged in similar circumstances underlines the importance of careful planning

A feature of last weeks operation was the style and protective measures that were necessary given the nature of the intelligence and the threat to the local community.

In addition to managing those issues, officers were required to care for members of the public taken from the house who are not involved, secure arrests, prevent any escapes of suspects, perform initial searches of the property for immediate hazards, conduct cordons to ensure the scene was secure, manage traffic diversions caused by the necessary road closures, and to work with the local community to provide advice and reassurance. Clearly this was not hundreds of police officers entering one house.

I am aware of the claims made by some commentators that 3,000 Muslim homes have been raided since September 11 2001. I simply do not recognise this figure but I can assure you that no individual or family are targeted by police because of their race or their faith. Our operations and investigations are always intelligence and evidence led.

As we speak, more than 50 people are waiting trial in the United Kingdom for terrorism offences.

The attacks in London last July demonstrated that terrorism affects every single community not just in London but across the UK.

We are working closely with colleagues around the UK to monitor community concerns and make sure we are aware of, and can respond appropriately to, any emerging tensions.

Terrorism affects us all and therefore we must all pull together in a caring and tolerant manner. This is not the time for conflict and anger. The police service must understand the impact of our actions on the community. Equally the community needs to understand the nature of the threat and that can only be achieved through constructive and regular dialogue at all levels which we are committed to do.

DAC Rose Fitzpatrick, Diversity and Citizen Focus Command, said:

Firstly I would like to thank the local community in Newham for their continued partnership working and co-operation with us.

Understandably, last week's counter-terrorist operation in Forest Gate has caused concern amongst members of the community.

Understanding that concern, we have sought to include local people in the policing response following the operation on Friday. They have helped us by scrutinizing our reassurance work, and by giving us feedback and advice about what the community wants to hear from us and how best to get those messages to them.

As in many areas of policing, gaining and maintaining the confidence of the community is critical to the long-term success of counter-terrorist policing.

The nature and sensitivity of counter-terrorism policing means that our relationship with communities can come under a lot of pressure and be tested to the limit, as we have seen recently.

But terrorist investigations have to go where the intelligence and evidence takes them.

We police counter-terrorism on behalf of all communities, because all communities are affected by terrorism. Every effort is made by police to ensure that minority communities are not criminalised or victimised in any way.

And I would like to reiterate very strongly comments that no individual is targeted by police because of their faith, their race or their religion.

We know the overwhelming majority of the Muslim community are law abiding and reject all forms of violence. We know that they support our counter-terrorism work and want us to keep London safe.

It would be counter-productive for us to target any specific community as it is not police action alone that will ultimately defeat terrorism, but the combined action of all communities. It is very true that it is communities ultimately who defeat terrorism.

I and my colleagues have been meeting with community members and representatives ever since the operation began, and those community reassurance meetings have also been looking at long-term community cohesion. I am very grateful to those who are helping us to reassure the community, particularly in Newham, and we will continue to work with them for as long as it takes.

Senior police officers visited mosques in the surrounding area on Friday afternoon, where they spoke to key community contacts, and I myself have met and spoken with many people from the community.

Our first responsibility is to protect the people of London from terrorism and all other crime.

We know through years of experience that we do that most effectively when we work alongside and with communities.

Calls for disengagement by certain members of society really do ignore the reality of how those relationships work on the ground, because our relationships didn't begin last weekend, or over this last week - our relationships with communities are enduring.

We have been working with people locally for a long time. Those relationships are there not just for the easy times but for the times when we do have to talk about how we carry out our fundamental duties.

It is true, of course, that sometimes the police and communities see the world differently and that is the point of having dialogue.

Our determination is to do what we have to do to protect people in all of London's communities from terrorism, but to do that in a way that engages and takes with us the communities with whom we work.

It's in the best interest of communities to be protected from terrorism and we need to talk to them about how we best do that, but we all have to recognise that sometimes we have to take really quite difficult decisions.

On this occasion we have been under a duty and we have had no option but to take operational action.

Now its about continuing to talk to communities, and to share what information we can to ensure that as we progress over the next few weeks and months we can continue to safeguard people, both in respect of terrorism and the other crime that affects communities in their daily lives.

The more we engage and the more we talk and listen, the more we understand. Clearly, we operate under some fairly tight constraints in terms of what information we can give communities about what's going on. We want to share whatever information we can because we recognise that concerns do arise from gaps in people's understanding.

I think that people do appreciate that there are difficulties about sharing information when there are two parallel investigations ongoing, both the Met investigation into the alleged terrorist activity and the IPCC inquiry into events around the discharge of a weapon in the house.

We would be failing in our duty if we put anything into the public domain that either jeopardised people's public safety or the prospect of future criminal proceedings - and I know that communities recognise that.

Neither we nor the community can absolutely choose the time at which we have to act. As Assistant Commissioner Hayman has said, we have to act at the right time to protect people from terrorism and that's what we've done on this occasion.

Terrorist investigations have to go where the intelligence and evidence takes them. When we considered in this operation whether we had time to try and develop the intelligence even further balanced against public safety - public safety won.

Public safety was, and continues to be, our paramount priority. We would be failing in our duty to the public not to investigate such intelligence. We cannot lose sight of the fact that the threat from international terrorism remains real and serious, and that it affects all communities.

We are very sorry for the inconvenience and disruption caused to the local community during this operation and we have been working with them closely since Friday to ensure that they have been able to carry on their normal daily lives as much as possible.

The way forward, now, is to make sure we share what information we can, and that we talk at every level from nationally to the streets of East London, to ensure we are listening to what communities are telling us about how we're protecting them. We need to be listening and responding in the way we tailor both the rest of this operation and future operations. We will continue to work with the community to do just that.

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08 June 2006