Olympic terror threat upgrade expected

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HERTFORDSHIRE anti-terror experts expect a threat level upgrade for this summer's Olympics and other public celebrations.

A business conference in Hemel Hempstead today (Friday) heard there was no current intelligence to show a threat level higher in Dacorum borough or Hertfordshire but the situation was fluid as there was a risk from 'lone wolf' attacks.

Jonathan Saull, Hertfordshire Constabulary's Counter Terrorism Security Advisor, said: "With the range of events during this dense summer we have coming up, we may go up to a severe threat level, possibly critical, depending on the intelligence we get."

A critical threat is the highest possible level of alert for the emergency services.

Mr Saull, who is paid by the Home Office, told delegates at the Dacorum Business Against Crime conference that there is a risk from lone wolf extremists who are currently beneath the radar. The threat could come from home-grown radicals who had 'twisted ideologies' and who can create bombs using easily obtainable goods.

But he warned against demonising any particular social group. He said: "Threat can come from so many different sectors; it's a twisted ideology, not a religious cause.

"We never saw headlines about Catholic or Protestant fundamentalists during the troubles in Northern Ireland. The danger with religious labeling is it creates a backlash against ethnic communities and starts off a circle of hate."

The conference, attended by 60 businesses, charities and civic leaders, was told the business community should prepare for what it would do if the worst were to happen. Taking steps to reduce terrorism would also deter other crimes and help businesses survive emergencies, Mr Saull said.

Other forms of disruption could include protests driven by animal extremists, the audience at South Hill Centre, in Cemetery Road, heard.

Paula Busby, Hertfordshire County Council's emergency planning officer, said that behind the scenes a "lot of work" had been going on to prepare for the Olympics. She has been at the council for six years, including during the Buncefield explosion, and said Hertfordshire's emergency planning was at an advanced level because of the real life experiences.

She said: "There is lots of work going on round the Olympics. We've gone through a lot of scenarios of what if something happens during the Olympics, including the Torch Relay."

Hemel Hempstead MP Mike Penning, a former Grenadier Guardsman during the troubles in Northern Ireland, told the conference that because London was a harder target, terrorists might look at 'softer' areas to create chaos, anxiety and concern. He said: "I sit on the COBRA emergency sub-committee and I can tell you there are people out there who would like to start a terrorist attack.

"But they will not succeed because terrorism will never succeed as long as we stick together as a community."

For further information visit www.hertsdirect.org/businesscontinuity and to take a confidential Vulnerability Self Assessment Tool (VSAT) to measure business risks, send an email to the National Counter Terrorism Security Office at info@nactso.gov.uk