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Live updates: Westminster attack investigation

Fresh calls have been made for Westminster security to be ‘stepped up’ in the wake of Wednesday’s terror attack. Former Met Police commissioner Lord Blair told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme “there will have to be changes” following the attack and a review of the “outer soft ring” around the Houses of Parliament should be expected. Ex-House of Commons deputy speaker Nigel Evans also added to the call for enhanced security after revealing “lots” of MPs locked in the Commons chamber during and after the attack were already discussing how to boost security in certain areas.

Sky Views: Has Westminster security gone too far?

Adam Boulton, Editor-at-Large

This week’s attack on Westminster was brutally simple . A lone assailant, Khalid Masood, killed four people and seriously wounded more than 20 others. It took a matter of seconds and the weapons – knives and a car – are readily available to most adults in this country. Masood did most damage on the soft targets – pedestrians, many of them tourists, crowding a pavement on Westminster Bridge beside a road that is one of the capital’s main thoroughfares. The defences of the hard target – politicians going about their business in Parliament – held.

If terror is about threatening and unsettling the lives of ordinary citizens, the reaction to his murderous assault handed the lone killer a posthumous victory. Adam Boulton

Heroically and tragically, PC Keith Palmer was murdered . He was the first line of defence at the gates of the Palace of Westminster . It is difficult to see how someone whose job involved interacting with the public could have been better protected from a shock stabbing attack. A few yards further into New Palace Yard, Masood was shot dead by an armed close protection officer who was guarding Defence Secretary Michael Fallon. In spite of these terrible events, the national threat level was not raised from “severe”.

Security forces remained on alert for the likelihood of some kind of terror event, but there was no specific intelligence of an imminent attack being planned. After paying due tribute to the police and emergency services and a statement on the attack from the Prime Minister, MPs congratulated themselves on returning to business as usual. Debates resumed, but it was not business as usual at Westminster. Some 24 hours after the attack, roads around Parliament – Whitehall, Parliament Square, Millbank – were still shut to both vehicles and pedestrians, inconveniencing tens if not hundreds of thousands of people and disrupting one of the nation’s hubs. Even one former security minister said privately that he thought the precautions were going “too far” . If terror is about threatening and unsettling the lives of ordinary citizens, the reaction to his murderous assault handed the lone killer a posthumous victory. Alas, the Palace of Westminster is no stranger to attacks .

In the 1970s, the IRA’s mainland campaign bombed the Great Hall and blew up Airey Neave as he was leaving the MP’s car park. In February 1991, mortars were fired into 10 Downing Street . After each of these attacks, the security cordon was much more limited than this week and obviously served a practical purpose. This century there have been three violent attacks against MPs holding surgeries in their constituencies . Nigel Jones and Stephen Timms were injured, while Jo Cox was murdered. Almost all MPs have vowed to go on meeting the public as an essential part of their job. However, the Palace of Westminster has become more and more like a fortress even though the attacks there have been relatively frivolous.

In 2004, Otis Ferry and other pro-hunt demonstrators broke into the chamber of the Commons and disrupted proceedings . In another incident, Fathers for Justice threw a harmless purple powder down from the public gallery. The public gallery is now sealed off from MPs by high glass . Getting near the chamber requires an electronic pass to get through multiple locked doors . Visitors to the Parliament must go through full magnetic arch screening, and on the sides exposed to roads, the building is protected by railings, bollards and heavy truck-proof barricades. Most MPs gratefully admit that they are well protected in Westminster even following this week’s bloodshed. Nobody criticises the police and security services for doing their job .

But overzealous bolting of the stable door by the security services and health and safety style overreaction once a danger has passed just curtails the very freedoms they are supposed to be protecting and hands the terrorists an unnecessary win.

Sky Views is a series of comment pieces by Sky News editors and correspondents, published every morning.

Previously on Sky Views: Tom Cheshire – Ronald McDonald is a hero for our times1

References

  1. ^ Tom Cheshire – Ronald McDonald is a hero for our times (news.sky.com)

How did Theresa May’s security team handle her evacuation from Westminster?

Footage of the Prime Minister being escorted from Parliament following the Westminster terror attack has prompted questions about her security team. Sky News police analyst Graham Wettone analysed the footage to see whether Theresa May was moved safely. “The initial attack is coming from the Carriage Gates and the Prime Minister’s car is in the other courtyard . That looks a short distance, but essentially it’s quite some distance to cover.

“The attacker is dealt with very, very quickly . There are a number of armed protection officers literally round the corner.

“Then there’s the courtyard, the safe and secure area where the Prime Minister’s car was located while she was in Parliament in Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs). “You see two protection officers coming out into the courtyard to secure it . They’re in constant communication with the team that has the Prime Minister. “Theresa May is being kept in a secure, safe location within the corridors. “You see her come out with the protection team .

She momentarily moves to the right – she saw one officer move to the right and she wasn’t sure whether to follow him or stay with the protection team behind her. “But you see the officer behind her, who’s very close, has indicated she needs to come to the silver car, with the officer standing next to the door ready for her to get in.

“She’s very relaxed . She even steps back from the door and waits for it to be opened for her to get in . No sign of panic, very calm, she has complete confidence and trust in her team. “The officer has got an MP5 (gun) out, a powerful firearm to deal with any threat . He turns towards the Carriage Gate where the threat has come from.

“She’s in the car, safe and secure . The officers get in the back-up car . Her car moves off, goes towards the exit gates but they haven’t been cleared yet.

“It’s common practice to back off and keep your exits open . The driver can either go the route he’s been asked for, or if he gets different information he can go a different route. “That looks like a very good, very well controlled removal of the Prime Minister from the estate.

“To the untrained eye it may look a bit chaotic . But this isn’t Hollywood, it’s not like you see on the films . They managed it in a controlled, calm manner.”

A Parliamentary security review is now under way, with some MPs raising concerns about weak-points in the estate’s perimeter. Others have questioned unarmed officers being positioned in the first line of defence. A security review was launched in October 2014 after the then-prime minister David Cameron had a run-in with a jogger in Leeds.1 The man – Dean Farley – was briefly arrested but released without charge .

He said he just “brushed into someone while running”. The attack has also drawn comparison with US presidential security, which was put to the test during last year’s campaign when a protester at a rally in Ohio jumped the barricade and tried to rush Donald Trump. Four security men surrounded Mr Trump in seconds, and were praised by the now President for doing “a great job”.

References

  1. ^ prime minister David Cameron had a run-in with a jogger in Leeds. (news.sky.com)