Aftermath of counter-terror raid takes toll on Muslim family

police officer at protest
Maryam Jameela

This article was updated on 13 April at 11:20 to include a comment from the Metropolitan Police.

Counter-terror raids are one part of the government’s approach to state security. But, there’s one crucial aspect which is being overlooked. That’s the impact such raids have on families who face heavy-handed tactics from police forces.

As part of the Investigations Unit’s #ResistBigBrother series, we’ve been working with CAGE to bring forward the real impact of the hostile environment for British Muslims.

Business as usual

Over the summer of 2020, a number of addresses were raided by counter-terror police. A Guardian report at the time of the raid said:

Police said two east London addresses were raided and at one a man aged 27 was arrested. At a second address in east London a man aged 31 and male aged 17 were detained. In Leicestershire police arrested a man aged 32.

Since this raid, at least one man has been convicted after an operation from the Metropolitan police and MI5.

CAGE told The Canary:

With regards to the raids, there were two in East London, impacting the same family. Two brothers were arrested in the Ilford premises and a third brother in a separate East London premises. Of the two from Ilford, one was released NFA [no further action], the other was charged.

Our client is the man who was released on NFA and his family. We don’t represent the charged men in this case.

Forced entry into premises to conduct an arrest or carry out a search warrant are commonplace. However, these raids are also happening in the context of tensions from government-led Islamophobia, rejections of Islamophobia as a type of racism, and suspicion of Muslims. Tactics that fall under the umbrella of counter-terror strategy, then, require a closer look.

Speaking out

Since the raid, the family represented by CAGE have spoken to The Canary about their ordeal.

In a collective statement they told us:

The raid on our family home was an extremely traumatic experience for the whole family and we are still trying to recover from the damage it caused. We were terrified when hoards of armed police broke our door down and forced their way in, without any explanation and with elderly family members inside.

A recent review from the Law Commission has taken a look at how search warrants are carried out. In 2018, the commission said:

The laws around search warrants should be modernised with more protections put in place to protect individuals’ rights

When this report was published in 2020, the commission set out a series of recommendations that, among other things, look to:

  • Streamline the process of obtaining and carrying out search warrants.
  • Tighten up laws around the right to search and obtain electronic information.
  • Further protections to signpost to occupants why their home has been raided.

The review largely looks at the process for search warrants rather than protections for individuals. This said, the review does recommend:

introducing a statutory requirement for law enforcement agencies executing search warrants to provide an occupier with a notice of powers and rights. In addition, we recommend the introduction of a specific search warrants “your rights and the law” webpage on the Government website. Finally, we recommend that application forms are amended to invite the issuing authority to record their reasons for granting a warrant which may be executed outside usual hours.

Given that the Network for Police Monitoring already have a ‘know your rights‘ section, as do CAGE, it’s difficult to see this recommendation as one that genuinely safeguards the rights of citizens. It could also be argued that the efforts to uphold rights are the responsibility of the police, rather than individuals themselves.

The Law Commission’s review is extensive and has contributions to make to police reform. But, the question is: can police reform bring justice?

Aftermath

The family went into more detail about their encounter:

We felt completely petrified, humiliated and targeted and cannot understand how it was all justified. It was so public; they turned the house upside down but in the end there were no charges brought and no further action from police towards our brother. He was declared completely innocent.

The Home Office releases quarterly statistics on information related to counter-terrorism. This includes numbers on people arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000, outcomes of terrorism-related charges, and the ethnicity of people arrested, among other things.

However, this doesn’t include statistics on people who face charges, convictions, or no further action after a counter-terror raid.

Anas Mustapha, spokesperson for CAGE, told The Canary:

There is a lack of accountability for ineffective raids and no impact assessment on raided families.

A lack of transparency on the outcomes of counter-terror raids is yet another area with gaps in police accountability.

As the Law Commission’s review show, the protection of civil rights is not at the forefront of attempts at reform. This is troubling for all people, but particularly for Muslims.

Senior lecturer at the University of York Katy Sian told The Canary:

Counter terror raids fall disproportionately upon members of the Muslim community who have been unjustly surveilled and targeted as part of the Islamophobic War on Terror campaign.

Trauma

There is a lot of trauma to grapple with for families who experience raids.

Indeed, the family also told us:

We have been subjected to abuse and attacks from our neighbours and the local community, not to mention that it was all over the news. What the news failed to mention is that the raid did not amount to anything. Our brother has been unjustly defamed and wants to get on with his life, but this stigma will follow him for the rest of his life. The deep fear and anxiety that this has caused the entire family will not just disappear overnight.

Since summer 2020, Mustapha confirmed that:

  • The front door remained broken for two-months. It remained unsafely boarded up until the family was able to replace it.

  • The use of firearms alerted neighbours who became hostile to the family.

  • They were the subjects of abuse and a suspected hate crime when a brick was thrown into their front room, shattering the glass and leaving sharp debris everywhere.

  • Their elderly grandmother was not allowed to take her medication during the raid and was refused access to it.

Sian continues:

These raids are deeply traumatic for the families who are harassed, intimidated and subjected to force in their own homes, under unclear circumstances and with limited information. The long term harms of these actions include fear, anxiety, and a sense of paranoia.

Response from the Met

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police told The Canary:

“The Met’s Counter Terrorism Command, and the entire national Counter Terrorism Network, works around the clock with MI5 and other partners to protect the public by robustly responding to a diverse range of terrorist threats.

Using a range of tactics, officers are identifying and investigating people who are suspected of involvement in terrorist activity or otherwise pose a threat to national security, and taking decisive action to apprehend suspects.

These specialist officers and staff are saving lives by disrupting terrorist attack plots and securing convictions of people for terrorism offences, as well as steering people away from radicalisation through the Prevent programme and getting huge amounts of extremist content removed from the internet.

Police remain committed to tackling all forms of toxic ideology and extremism which has the potential to threaten public safety and security.

Pattern of behaviour

With criticisms of the Prevent strategy, the Shawcross review, and policies coming out of the Commission for Countering Extremism, there are many examples of Muslims being treated as enemies of the state.

Mustapha told us:

There must be accountability for how these raids are conducted, their effectiveness and damage to community relations.

These raids also help maintain the narrative of suspect communities against Muslims and sustain the constant onslaught on our collective freedoms through new laws and policies.

The theatre of these search warrants serves to create a culture of fear and suspicion targeted specifically at Muslims.

Sian told The Canary:

Communities of colour are already mistrustful of law enforcement agencies due to deep seated racism, such as profiling, and excessive use of force. Counter terror raids serve as another means to control and regulate people of colour.

Everyone should be concerned at accounts and experiences like this family’s. It’s all the more concerning, and life threatening, for Muslims and Communities of Colour..

Featured image via Unsplash/Phil Hearing

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  • Show Comments
    1. Unsurprising yet still shocking to read about – but, there is _no_ process of reform in progress and no dialogue. All institutions like the police do is adapt their agenda using the other parties’ arguments to recalibrate, as when their ‘independent watchdog’ the IPCC became the IOPC. If a senior police officer takes the knee it’s a public relations gesture to give the appearance of having read the room. It’s no skin of their noses to get a mild scuff mark on a trouser leg and then carry on with the same old shit, which we know is what they do.

      Expecting something to come of a supposed dialogue is like being the child of an alcoholic narcissist pleading to be treated better. That will never be on their minds. The only value in contributing to an imagined dialogue is to be able to cite having done so when the authorities act undemocratically, and then that is only for the audience to observe. Outside of media manipulation of situations the police use the same techniques against all their victims. Coming to an awareness of this could in time make for better targeted, better coordinated direct action.

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