Record number of women terror suspects arrested


A record number of women terror suspects were arrested in Britain in 2015/16, official figures have revealed.

A total of 36 females were held as part of counter-terrorism investigations in the 12 months to the end of March - the highest number in any financial year on record.

Rising numbers of youngsters are also being detained, with under-18s the only age group to see a rise in the number of arrests year-on-year - increasing from eight to 14.

Overall, there were 255 terrorism-related arrests in 2015/16, a decrease of 15% compared to the previous year when there were a record 301.

A Home Office report accompanying the data said: "Although a fall on the previous year, the number of arrests in the year ending 31 March 2016 was still higher than most other recent years."

Since the year ending March 2011, around the time of the Arab Spring, there has been a "general upward trend" in the number of arrests for terrorism-related offences, the paper said.

Security services have been on high alert since the emergence of Islamic State in 2014.

Britain's official terror threat level for international terrorism currently stands at severe - indicating that an attack is seen as "highly likely". 

Earlier this year it was revealed that police and intelligence agencies have disrupted seven plots to attack the UK in the previous 18 months.

The 36 female suspects held means they accounted for one in seven arrests over the period. 

This was one more than the previous year and the number follows a steady increase since 2010/11, when it stood at 10. 

All but two of the females arrested in the most recent year were considered to have links to international-related terrorism, the Home Office report said.

The number of under-18s detained was at the joint highest level for a financial year since records started. 

All but one of those in the youngest age group were considered to have links to international-related terrorism.

The statistics appear to chime with fears of increasing numbers of women and teenagers being drawn into extremism.

Schoolgirls and young families are among those feared to have fled the UK to join IS. 

By contrast the number of 18 to 20-year-olds arrested more than halved, from 44 to 20.

Arrests in the international and "domestic" categories both fell, down from 217 to 212 and from 32 to 10 respectively, while the Northern Ireland-related tally was up from three to six.

The overall fall in the number of arrests was driven by a dip in arrests of people from white ethnic groups, which was down by a quarter from 88 to 66, and black ethnic groups, which nearly halved from 49 to 25 arrests.

Arrests of those from Asian ethnic groups, which made up more than half (55%) of all arrests in the year ending in March, remained relatively stable, the report said. 

Over three quarters of those held were British or had British dual nationality.

A third of the arrests - 86 - resulted in a charge, with 76 of those individuals charged with terrorism-related offences.

The figures showed 97 people (38%) were released without charge, 64 - or one in four - were bailed to return, while eight faced alternative action.