Act Now - First in the Country

Friday, 06 January, 2012

Officers from Cleveland Police, in partnership with Stockton Council and Middlesbrough Council, attended Kirklevington Prison in Yarm to deliver a course on terrorist incidents - the first of its kind to involve prisoners in the country.

Course Co-ordinator Sergeant Harry Simpson said: "Act Now is a table top exercise designed to engage communities in the decision making process the police undertake in the event of a terrorist incident. It has been used by Cleveland Police on a number of occasions; each being met with a positive response, but this was the first time we had involved inmates."

It was designed to promote debate within communities around the issue of preventing terrorism and has been developed in response to the publication of the Government's Prevent strategy which is one of the strands of the national Counter Terrorism policy known as Contest. The Prevent strategy aims to address all forms of terrorism and addresses three key areas:

1. Ideology - responding to the ideological challenge of terrorism and those who promote it.
2. Institutions - to work with sectors and institutions where the there may be risks of radicalisation.
3. Individuals - to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism and ensure they are given appropriate advice and support.

On 20th December, officers delivered two exercises with both inmates and prison staff. The sessions lasted about two and a half hours each and all participants were soon drawn into the unfolding scenario of a terrorist incident.

Each delegate was given small pieces of intelligence around a terrorist group in a fictitious town and discussed the needs of the Police, the Community and individuals involved. As the scenario unfolded, the participants got a better understanding of the decision making process of the Police during a terrorist incident.

Sgt Simpson added: "Act Now provides an opportunity to provide community reassurance over the use of police counter terrorism tactics and seeks to open a channel of communications with local communities to dispel myths in how terrorism is policed.

"It reflects and supports the new Prevent strategy to challenge extremist ideology, work with institutions where there is a risk of radicalisation and prevent people from being drawn in to terrorism.

"This was the first time this exercise has been delivered in a prison in England and is an excellent example of partnership work to challenge and prevent terrorism and support individuals vulnerable to radicalisation."

Governor of HMP Kirklevington Grange, Gabrielle Lee added: "We are committed to working in co-operation with the police, and as our prisoners prepare to go out to work in the community we are well situated to participate in such an exercise which allows debate around the sensitive issue of extremism within communities."

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