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Crackdown in fight against dirty money 16/07/2019

CRIMINALS WILL have nowhere left to hide their ill-gotten gains thanks to a joint crackdown by government and businesses, ministers will announce.

The new Economic Crime Plan has been agreed between the Chancellor Philip Hammond, Home Secretary Sajid Javid, and heads of law enforcement, major financial institutions and legal, accountancy and property organisations.

The plan sets out actions to better tackle the scourge of ‘dirty money’ in the UK. It brings together the public and private sectors in closer cooperation than ever before, with improved levels of information sharing, resource pooling and technological innovation. This will help tackle economic crime both at home and overseas, while maintaining the UK’s place as one of the safest and most transparent places to do business.

The plan draws together actions to overhaul the approach to tackling economic crime, including:

  • a boost to law enforcement capability, with £48 million of previously announced funding to continue to build the National Economic Crime Centre and help the National Crime Agency to better utilise data to proactively target fraudsters and those laundering dirty money

  • reform of the Suspicious Activity Reporting regime, with Barclays, HSBC UK, Lloyds Banking Group, Nationwide, RBS and Santander UK investing £6.5 million in 2019/20, in addition to the £3.5 million committed by the Home Office this year. All parties will work together on longer term funding for developing richer intelligence and improving operational effectiveness in the fight against dirty money.

  • establishing a new cryptoassets regime with the Financial Conduct Authority, going beyond international standards to create one of the most comprehensive global responses to the use of cryptoassets in illicit activity

  • promoting innovation in the private sector and encouraging businesses to take advantage of pioneering technologies to combat economic crime, as well as reduce their compliance costs

  • Implementing the new Asset Recovery Action Plan, setting out a range of measures designed to enhance efforts to claw back the proceeds of crime, including those held abroad.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, said, “The UK has one of the toughest systems for combatting money laundering, but too many people are still falling victim to fraud.

This crime fuels everything from drug dealing to modern slavery, fundamentally undermining people’s faith in our financial system and impacting economic growth.

By bringing together leaders from across government, law enforcement and business, we can better tackle the scourge of dirty money, and ensure the UK continues to be one of the safest places in the world to invest and do business.”

The Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, said, “Economic crime in all its guises threatens our security and prosperity and leaves a trail of victims in its wake.

We’ve made progress in the fight to stop criminals profiting from their offending – but we must go further.

Our new plan represents a step-change in our response, bringing together the public and private sectors to relentlessly pursue the perpetrators and their dirty money.”

Chairman of UK Finance, Bob Wigley, said, “Tackling economic crime in partnership with government and law enforcement is a top priority for the finance and banking sector. This plan provides a vital blueprint for how the public and private sector will work together to crack down on the criminals responsible and make this country the cleanest and most transparent for financial business in the world.

Access to high quality intelligence on the latest threats is essential in stopping economic crime. That is why a key part of this plan is about reforming and improving the current Suspicious Activity Reporting regime. To support this work the industry has committed to providing £6.5 million in funding for this project and UK Finance is hosting a team of industry and Home Office experts to help deliver this work.

Director General of the National Economic Crime Centre, Graeme Biggar, said, “We have had some brilliant results working with the private sector. Harnessing the intelligence and capabilities across the public and private sectors is going to make a real difference to our ability to tackle economic crime.

Having a detailed, up to date joint understanding of the threat helps ensure we focus our response where it will have the biggest impact. Our joint work has highlighted the scale and sophistication of the challenge, the extent to which fraud is now cyber enabled, the key role that corrupt or complicit lawyers and accountants and complex corporate structures can play in money laundering, and the importance of tackling money mules.

We will work closely with our partners in law enforcement, as well as with the private sector, civil society and the public, to bring those committing economic crime to justice.”

The UK has been recognised as a world-leader in combatting economic crime, yet the activity still poses a significant threat to the country’s security and prosperity, with the financial sector a major target for criminals. Serious and organised crime is estimated to cost the UK at least £37 billion each year.

While numerous government agencies work to combat illicit financial activity, major financial institutions, lawyers and accountants are often the first line of defence, collecting significant information which can be vital to preventing this activity from occurring in the first place.

One in fifteen members of the public are now believed to be falling victim to fraud, with gang violence and drug trafficking regularly financed through this.

Alongside the Economic Crime Plan, the Government is publishing a new Asset Recovery Action Plan.

It highlights how more assets have been recovered under this government than ever before, with £1.6 billion taken from criminals between April 2010 and March 2018 using the powers in the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA). Many hundreds of millions more have been frozen.

The recovery of assets also helps contribute to ongoing efforts to tackle crime, including work to follow the money as an effective way of disrupting serious crime and depriving more offenders of the proceeds of their offending.

But the government is determined to go further and ensure criminals have nowhere to hide their illicit finances. The plan sets out measures designed to ensure the relevant agencies have the powers they need; strengthen our operational response; drive best practice; and foster innovation and collaborative working.

These plans build on other ongoing work to combat economic crime. This includes encouraging transparency around the ownership of assets, with recent proposals to reform Companies House so that ownership and control of companies is clearer.

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NCSC report shows UK intelligence is thwarting attack 16/07/2019

A SCAM to defraud thousands of UK citizens using a fake email address spoofing a UK airport was one of a wide range of cyber attacks successfully prevented by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), a report revealed on 16 July.

Details of the criminal campaign are just one case study of many in Active Cyber Defence – The Second Year, the latest comprehensive analysis of the NCSC’s world-leading programme to protect the UK from cyber attacks.

The thwarting of the airport scam was one example in 2018 of how ACD protects the public – in this case preventing potentially thousands of people ending up out of pocket.

The incident occurred last August when criminals tried to send in excess of 200,000 emails purporting to be from a UK airport and using a non-existent gov.uk address in a bid to defraud people.

However, the emails never reached the intended recipients’ inboxes because the NCSC’s ACD system automatically detected the suspicious domain name and the recipient’s mail providers never delivered the spoof messages. The real email account used by the criminals to communicate with victims was also taken down.

A combination of ACD services has helped HMRC’s own efforts in massively reducing the criminal use of their brand. HMRC was the 16th most phished brand globally in 2016, but by the end of 2018 it was 146th in the world.

Dr Ian Levy, the NCSC’s technical director and author of the ACD report, said, “These are just two examples of the value of ACD – they protected thousands of UK citizens and further reduced the criminal utility of UK brands. Concerted effort can dissuade criminals and protect UK citizens.

“While this and other successes are encouraging, we know there is more to do, and we would welcome partnerships with people and organisations who wish to contribute to the ACD ecosystem so that together we can further protect UK citizens.

“This second comprehensive analysis we have undertaken of the programme shows that this bold approach to preventing cyber attacks is continuing to deliver for the British public.”

Introduced by the NCSC in 2016, ACD is a bold, interventionist approach that stops millions of cyber attacks from ever happening. It includes the pioneering programmes Web Check, DMARC, Public Sector DNS and a takedown service.

The ACD technology, which is free at the point of use, intends to protect the majority of the UK from the majority of the harm from the majority of the attacks the majority of the time.

Other key findings for 2018 from the second ACD report include:

  • In 2018 the NCSC took down 22,133 phishing campaigns hosted in UK delegated IP space, totalling 142,203 individual attacks;
  • 14,124 UK government-related phishing sites were removed;
  • Thanks to ACD the number of phishing campaigns against HMRC continues to fall dramatically – with campaigns spoofing HMRC falling from 2,466 in 2017 to 1,332 in 2018. These figures relate to 16,064 spoof sites in 2017 and 6,752 sites in 2018;
  • The total number of takedowns of fraudulent websites was 192,256, and across 2018, with 64% of them down in 24 hours;
  • The number of individual web checks run has increased almost 100-fold, and we issued a total of 111,853 advisories direct to users in 2018.

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office David Lidington said, "The UK is safer since the launch of our cyber strategy in 2016. Over the last three years, and backed by a £1.9 billion investment, we have revolutionised the UK’s fight against cyber threats as part of an ambitious programme of action.

“The statistics and examples in this report speak for themselves. They outline the tangible impact that Active Cyber Defence is having, and how it is a key building block in improving cyber security in the UK now, and in the future.”

The new report also looks to the future of ACD, highlighting a number of areas in development. These include:

  • The work between the NCSC and Action Fraud to design and build a new automated system which allows the public to report suspicious emails easily. The NCSC aims to launch this system to the public later in 2019;
  • The development of the NCSC Internet Weather Centre, which will aim to draw on multiple data sources to allow us to really understand the digital landscape of the UK;
  • We’ll explore developing an Infrastructure Check service: a web-based tool to help public sector and critical national infrastructure providers scan their internet-connected infrastructure for vulnerabilities;
  • NCSC researchers have begun exploring additional ways to use the data created as part of the normal operation of the public sector protective DNS service to help our users better understand and protect the technologies in use on their networks.
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Government prioritises officers' mental health 16/07/2019

THE GOVERNMENT and police watchdog will work together to put the wellbeing and mental health of staff and officers at the heart of policing following a landmark review.

The Front Line Review has seen the Home Office engage directly with officers and staff for more than a year. The department has published everything it has heard from the front line, alongside a package of new measures which aims to transform the support given to them.

This includes plans to work with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) to embed wellbeing into the culture of policing through inspecting forces.

Home secretary Sajid Javid said, “Our world-leading police keep us safe in the most challenging of circumstances – so it’s vital we do everything possible to support them in their roles.

“Over the past year we’ve been speaking to officers and listening to their views around how they can make the service they provide even better.

“As a result, we are taking action to reduce their workloads, ensure their wellbeing and give the front line a stronger voice in decision making.”

The Front Line Review was launched by policing minister Nick Hurd and the Police Federation at their headquarters.

Officers from the front line and representatives from the College of Policing, Superintendents’ Association, National Police Chiefs’ Council and Association of Police and Crime Commissioners will also be present.

The minister will also visit forces in Surrey, Wales and Essex to engage with officers directly on the new package of support.

Minister for policing and fire, Nick Hurd, said, “We wanted to hear directly from the front line of policing and the messages were clear.

“The need for more people. The call to stop wasting police time. The desire for more of a say in the decisions that affect the front line. The need for more time and support for both training and wellbeing.

“We have listened and now we are taking action with our partners to make sure police officers, staff and volunteers have the support they need, wherever they serve. This is on top of the increased investment to recruit more officers.”

New guidance will also be issued empowering police to push back against responding to inappropriate requests for attendance, often health or welfare related, and where the police have neither the right skills or powers to respond.

This is designed to make a difference for vulnerable people, giving them the right support from the right agencies, while also freeing up time for the police to focus on tackling crime.

The government has worked closely with the College of Policing, National Police Chiefs Council, the Police Federation, HMICFRS, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners and others to see how we can learn from these findings.

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Videcon extends Bullet range 16/07/2019

VIDECON ANNOUNCES expansions to the Concept Pro range of Bullet cameras.

With the cameras available in small, medium and large-sized housing, the range now comprises both Analogue High Definition and IP models available with resolutions of 2,4,5 or 8MP. 2MP IP and AHD models have been brought in to the range to supplement the existing range of cost-effective, 2MP cameras. 

In addition, 5MP AHD models are also available, giving users plentiful flexibility when it comes to selecting their model. An 8MP Ultra High Definition IP model will also feature, bringing a new level of image clarity to the range and further ensuring a wide variety of choice is offered to installers, allowing them to select an appropriate camera for every installation.

Jonathan Pratt, product manager at Videcon, said, “In keeping with the developments made across our Turret and Eyeball ranges of cameras, our Bullet range has been expanded to ensure there is plenty of choice for the installer and end-user alike. With further updates to our Dome camera offering in the works, Concept Pro’s camera offering is continually evolving and expanding.” 

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Fake landlord puts tenants in severe fire risk 16/07/2019

A TENANT pretending to be landlord has been ordered to pay more than £21,000 after he carved up five family homes he rented into unsafe bedsits – putting the lives of at least 40 vulnerable residents at risk.

Andrius Cikanavicius had converted the properties into houses in multiple occupation (HMO’s) without a licence or permission from the landlord or managing agent.

Horrified Redbridge Council enforcement officers found rooms that could not be opened from the inside without keys – delaying or preventing an escape in the event of a fire.

Other serious breaches of fire safety regulations included a lack of interlinked smoke alarms.  Properties did not have fire doors, fire blankets or fire-resistant plasterboard fitted on the underside of the staircase.    

The houses were overcrowded and without adequate shared facilities.

Cikanavicius, from Dagenham, was issued with fines totalling £14,600 – including £13,300 for fire safety breaches - after appearing before Barkingside Magistrates’ Court on 21 June 2019 when the council prosecuted him over his failure to comply with licensing conditions. 

He was also ordered to pay £7,000 in costs and a £120 victim surcharge.

Cabinet Member for Housing and Homelessness Cllr Farah Hussain said, “It’s appalling that Mr Cikanavicius would put vulnerable people at risk of death, simply for his own profit. This case has exposed a serious abuse of licensing regulations and a man who thought he could charge people hundreds of pounds a month to live in a death trap. We are serious and determined about improving standards in the private rented sector and we will continue to knock on the door of all suspected HMO’s and unlicensed properties to root out rogue operators and ensure they feel the full force of the law.”     

Last week the council announced it had used its powers under housing and planning law to issue 150 fines against illegal operators as an alternative to prosecution.   

Licensing is mandatory for all HMO’s, as well the 79 per cent of the private rental sector in Redbridge covered by the council’s selective licensing scheme.

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NFCC chair calls for urgent unsafe cladding removal 16/07/2019

The chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council has called for the urgent removal of unsafe cladding systems from buildings and for the identification of any similar systems to be made a priority.

This was one of the areas he highlighted during the evidence session to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee (HCLG), part of its inquiry into the independent review of building regulations.

NFCC Chair Roy Wilsher was very clear that the removal needs to go beyond ACM cladding – similar to the type on Grenfell Tower – and must include other flammable materials. He stated that ‘while ACM3 is ‘uniquely dangerous’, there may be other types which need to be identified and removed.

The oral evidence session took place on 8 July and heard evidence from a number of witnesses, including the NFCC Chair, Grenfell United, the Association of Residential Management Agents, the LGA and the Royal Institute of British Architects.  

Roy Wilsher commented, “The simple answer to whether NFCC is satisfied with the pace of change by government since the Grenfell Tower fire is ‘no’. We were one of the organisations who in the days following the fire said that Government should fund the removal of cladding and recover the costs later. I remain concerned about how this will move forward and we may well need emergency powers to enable the removal of all dangerous cladding.  

“While the Government’s funding to support the removal of dangerous cladding is a welcome, to date, less than a quarter of those premises identified have been fully remediated. People need to feel safe in their own home and there is currently a significant risk of a further serious incident.

Mr Wilsher’s evidence included the importance of more widespread fitting of sprinklers, including schools, new residential high-rise buildings over 18 metres in height and retro-fitting in high-rise buildings above 30 metres.  England’s legislation is falling behind legislation in Wales and Scotland and this needs to change.

NFCC want to see the government to prioritise sprinklers in the review of building regulations, requiring the use of sprinklers and other systems where the risk is greatest.

Roy Wilsher also raised concerns about funding for fire and rescue services to carry out vital protection work. During the last ten years, fire services have lost 40 per cent of inspecting officers – a role that can take years of training, particularly for a fire engineer. The Fire and Rescue Service wants to heavily involved in building safety for the future but any new responsibilities need to be adequately resourced.

“It is vital we are involved in regulatory work and continue to influence any national regulator, while carrying out work at a local level. Fire services must be properly resourced to carry this work out, and I am in discussions with the Home Office about this to look at how we make this a reality.”

During the session. Mr Wilsher also said it cannot be left to the construction industry to move regulations forward. He said that “modern methods of construction need to be tested to ensure they are fire safe.”

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Care home where resident died had been warned 16/07/2019

A CARE home where a resident died after a fire in his room had already been warned by the Brigade about fire safety failings.

Lee Valley Care Services in Wembley received a fine for just over £57,000 after pleading guilty to four offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 including:

  • failing to make a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment,

  • failing to update the fire risk assessment in light of a change of circumstances when smoking habits of a resident changed,

  • failing to monitor and reviewing fire safety arrangements,

  • failure to follow emergency procedures in the event of danger.

The Queenscourt care home is based in a  converted house and is home to up to seven vulnerable adults.

Fire safety concerns raised prior to fire

Our fire safety inspecting officers visited in November 2015 and raised concerns around fire doors, fire safety management and the lack of a proper fire risk assessment. A ‘Notice of Fire Safety Deficiencies’ was issued and managers were given until May 2016 to address the issues.

During the notice period, resident, Terence Roberts, died after a fire in his room in March 2016. Following the fire, our fire safety officers carried out another audit of the home and saw no evidence that the care home had been working on addressing the issues ahead of its deadline.

Evidence of smoking found in the care home

Evidence of cigarette litter and cigarette burns to furniture was found in the care home and Westminster Magistrates Court heard Mr Roberts had been smoking in his room before the fire. Mr Roberts was discovered in his smoke-filled bedroom by staff. He died six weeks later in hospital.

Dan Daly, the Brigade’s assistant commissioner for fire safety, said: “It is a terrible tragedy that vital fire safety warnings were not addressed more quickly in this case.  Our thoughts remain with the family of Terence Roberts.

“Smoking is one of the top causes of fatal fires among people who receive care and it’s vital that care homes and their staff can spot the danger signs associated with smoking, follow vital precautions to ensure vulnerable people are kept safe and detail how they have addressed the specific risks to residents in their Fire Risk Assessment. 

“We’re pleased to see this care home has radically improved its fire safety record in inspections following the incident involving Mr Roberts. The premises now exceeds industry standards, having installed sprinklers. ”

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Warning on anniversary of Wanstead Flats fire 15/07/2019

ONE ACT of foolishness can have devastating consequences – that’s the serious reminder from firefighters on the first anniversary of London’s biggest ever grass fire.

More than 200 firefighters spent four days tackling the huge blaze which broke out on July 15 last year and swept across Wanstead Flats. 

With the school holidays on their way and sporadic heatwaves predicted throughout the summer, London Fire Brigade is urging people to take care when they are out enjoying the sunshine this year.

Firefighters have already attended more than 1,200 grass fires across the capital this year.

London Fire Brigade Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, Dan Daly, said, “Last year we had the highest number of grass fires in London’s history, with firefighters attending 3,160 across the capital. 

“We do not want to see a repeat of that this year and would urge everyone who is out and about enjoying the weather to take care.

“One act of foolishness, such as dropping a cigarette on tinder dry grass, can have devastating consequences and no one wants that on their conscience. 

“Not only are these fires a risk to people’s lives and property, but we also want people to consider our crews who spend hours in the heat tackling these blazes, which are often avoidable.” 

The scale of the Wanstead Flats fire meant the cause was not determined, but common causes of grass fires include cigarettes, barbecues, glass and broken bottles which can magnify the sun and start fires. 

There has already been a large grass fire this year, when around 70 firefighters spent almost a week tackling a blaze in Rainham earlier this month.

Brigade’s top tips on grass fires:

Causes 

  • The most common causes of grass fires are discarded cigarettes, which if thrown from a car window can ignite dry grass verges
  • Another common way that these fires start is from glass bottles which can concentrate the suns rays onto dry grass and shrubbery

Precautions

  • Never leave camp fires or barbeques unattended and extinguish them properly after you have finished using them
  • Clear away bottles, glasses and any broken glass to avoid them magnifying the sun and starting a fire
  • Dispose of smoking materials such as cigarettes safely
  • Explain to children the dangers of playing with and lighting fires
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Collective task to tackle deliberate fires 16/07/2019

FIREFIGHTERS ARE urging communities to help them reduce antisocial behaviour at a notorious haven for fire starters.

Between March 2013 and May 2019, crews attended more than 40 deliberate fires at the old Strathmartine Hospital site in Angus. 

The site, previously a hospital and orphanage for people with learning difficulties, has been empty for 15 years – and has become synonymous with deliberate fires, vandalism and anti-social behaviour.

Emergency services and other agencies have worked tirelessly to reduce deliberate fires in the area, engaging in dozens of hours of youth and community engagement work.

But, despite a brief interlude in behaviour, the area has seen a recent spike in fire-setting – culminating in two large fires during the past month.

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service group manager Roy Dunsire is helping spearhead preventive efforts.

He said: “We’ve been working on a deliberate fire reduction plan over the last year.

“Fire-setting has been a challenge at Strathmartine for around a decade.

“But over the last couple of years the number of deliberate secondary fires at the site has increased.

“Between ourselves, the council, Police Scotland and other partners, there’s a real collective will to tackle this issue.”

Firefighters recently met with their partners and key members of the community at the hospital site to hatch a way forwards.

Dunsire explained, “We’ve carried out a lot of youth engagement work, particularly in Dundee.

“Around six months ago we actually saw a reduction in behaviour, but it’s now escalated again.

“This peaked with a big fire at the site on June 7 of this year, which has triggered a review of the plan – with the first step being this meeting.

“The aim is to show people that there is a collective will with all the partners to do all we can to tackle this behaviour.

“We’ve been out visiting schools and sites to make the consequences clear. We’ve not pulled any punches and have emphasised that this is a criminal act and there are huge costs and consequences to starting fires.”

According to Dunsire, communities can also play their part in reducing and preventing fires.

He said: “I’d urge the local community to keep an eye out for any sort of suspicious behaviour and to report it to police. This can allow us to help nip potential antisocial behaviour in the bud.

“While firefighters will always respond where they are needed, parents and carers can help us bymaking sure that children and young people are aware of the risks and consequences.”

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Synagogue arsonist sectioned 16/07/2019

A 52-YEAR-old man who wrote songs calling for violence against Jewish people has been ordered to be detained in a hospital for treatment after pleading guilty to torching Exeter synagogue whilst suffering a psychotic episode.

Tristan Morgan smashed a window of the men’s toilet from the outside with a small axe, poured in petrol from a can and threw in a burning piece of paper. The resulting fireball knocked Morgan off his feet and burnt his forehead and hair.

A passer-by heard the explosion and saw Morgan walking to his van with a green petrol can before driving off. She flagged down a passing police car and gave officers the licence plate number.

Shortly afterwards when police arrived at his home in Exeter his first words were: “That didn't take long”. The officers noticed that he smelt of petrol. His upper right arm was hot to the touch and Morgan said his hands were burning. They also noticed he was wet – Morgan confirmed he had thrown water over himself to cool his burns.

Morgan also told police, “Please tell me that synagogue is burning to the ground, if not, it’s poor preparation”. He was arrested and cautioned, to which he replied “Do you believe in race?”.

Firefighters later noted that given the severity of the fire it was lucky the boiler inside had not exploded otherwise it could have been an even more serious incident. The grade two listed building dating back to 1763 is the third oldest synagogue in Britain. The cost of repairs was £23,656.

The court heard expert psychiatric evidence explaining how Morgan had been suffering from psychosis at the time of the attack.  The experts also concluded that Morgan posed a high risk of further violence exacerbated by his use of alcohol and illegal drugs. In light of these conclusions the judge imposed a hospital order under the Mental Health Act along with a restriction order for the safety of the public.

Sue Hemming from the CPS said: “Tristan Morgan’s violence was partly driven by his hatred of Jewish people which was clear from the library of extremist literature he had.

“The arson attack at Exeter synagogue meant it couldn’t be used while repairs took place and left many of the congregation fearing for their future safety.

“He was suffering from a psychiatric disorder at the time but remains a danger so it’s right that he gets the treatment he needs at a hospital and the public is kept safe.”

While Morgan was being treated in hospital the police searched his home and van. In total they found 24 knives including a sword, hunting knife and the axe he used. His internet search history included the opening times for the synagogue which the CPS said showed he knew it would be closed on the night of the attack on Saturday 21 July last year.

His laptops, mobile phone and storage devices contained anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi material, as well as data showing his hatred for people who were not white. One document was a 340-page terrorist manual aimed at white supremacists to prepare them for a “race war”. There were sections recommending targeting synagogues and advice about arson attacks. Other documents promoted Holocaust denial, “ethnic cleansing” and supposed Jewish global power. He pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to possessing material likely to be of use to a terrorist.

Morgan also pleaded guilty to encouraging terrorism by composing a song called “White Man” and sharing it online. The song calls on white people to fight and kill racial enemies.

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