The UK home secretary, Priti Patel, is under fresh pressure after it emerged that she appeared to have dismissed intelligence briefings from counter- terrorism police to the Home Office over an alleged far-right terror attack.
Officers from S015, the Metropolitan police counter terrorism command (CTC), notified the Home Office in mid-September that it was suspected that a far-right extremist had attempted to carry out a terror attack at a solicitors’ firm in London.
Weeks later, on 4 October at the Conservative party conference, the home secretary intensified her criticism of “do gooders” and “lefty lawyers.”
On Saturday night, Nick Thomas-Symonds MP, the shadow home secretary, said: “The home secretary has fallen short of the high standards that the role demands. The use of such reprehensible and inflammatory language undermines the most important part of her job, which is to keep people safe.”
Officers from SO15 were drafted in to investigate the attack on law firm Duncan Lewis, which occurred on 7 September after it became evident that extremism might be involved.
Accounts from the firm, including eyewitness statements, formed part of the investigation.
On Friday, alleged far-right extremist Cavan Medlock, 28, from Harrow in north-west London, was charged with attempting to launch a terror attack at the law firm last month.
The Old Bailey heard that Medlock arrived at Duncan Lewis’s offices armed with a knife, handcuffs, a Nazi flag and a US Confederate flag with prosecutors saying he appeared to target the firm because of its involvement with immigration cases.
Previously, the Observer has revealed that Patel ignored warnings from senior colleagues including the lord chancellor and attorney general as well as officials from the Bar Council and Law Society to stop targeting immigration lawyers following the incident. Sources say the Met notified MI5 and the Home Office last month of the incident and its far-right links.
Separately, senior Home Office officials involved in its counter-extremism portfolio have said they were made aware of a suspected far-right attack before Patel resumed her attacks on immigration lawyers at the Tory party conference.
A spokesperson for the Met confirmed that it was protocol to share intelligence and details following a suspected terrorist incident with the Home Office: “Counter terrorism policing works closely with colleagues from MI5 and the Home Office in the course of our investigative activity. This includes sharing, as and where appropriate, certain information and intelligence relating to our work with these partners.”They added: “There are well established protocols in place to brief government on the police response following major incidents, including terrorist attacks.”
The chronology of events raises questions as to why Patel chose to keep attacking the legal profession. According to government documents, her remit is being “responsible for making sure our communities, in all (police) force areas, are kept safe and secure”.
An online Home Office fact sheet on rightwing terrorism pledges that the department is committed to tackling far-right attacks, stating: “The threat from rightwing terrorism has evolved in recent years and is growing. That is why this government is taking urgent action to tackle it.”
In addition, Patel has oversight of the security service MI5, which last year was given responsibility to take the lead in tackling rightwing terrorism, officially designated as a major threat to national security. This month, the new head of MI5 warned of its growing threat. Out of 27 terrorist plots disrupted in the past four years, eight have involved rightwing extremists.
In addition, Patel’s department presides over the government’s counter extremism strategy, Prevent, which aims to help vulnerable individuals people from being radicalised to supporting terrorism.
“With any case of domestic terrorism you need to look at the reasons behind it, its inspiration. This is why this is so serious,” said a source with knowledge of the case.
They added: “If you had a dubious politician abroad inciting hatred and then a UK terror incident was traced back to what this politician had said then you can only imagine the measures that would be taken.”