UK Police Ordered to Immediately Review MPs' Security Arrangements After Fatal David Amess Stabbing
Metropolitan Police Service announced on Saturday that the fatal stabbing of Conservative MP Sir David Amess in the Essex town of Leigh-on-Sea, the venue of a meeting with constituents, has been declared a terrorist incident with the probe turned over to the Met's Counter Terrorism Command.
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel has ordered police forces to launch an immediate review of security arrangements for all 650 MPs after the death of Sir David Amess at his constituency surgery in Essex on Friday.
All police forces are to “provide updates in due course," a spokesman for Patel was cited as telling reporters.
Patel, who has referred to the stabbing incident as "an attack on democracy", on Friday chaired a meeting with UK police, intelligence and security agencies
She is reported to have conferred with House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who promised to look into safety measures for MPs following the killing of Sir David, but cautioned against a "kneejerk reaction".
"We won't sit back on our laurels, of course we know the challenges. We've got to protect MPs and allow them to carry out their duties. The duties that the electorate put them there for - to speak, to meet and to make sure that their views are conveyed to parliament," he was cited by Sky News as saying.
Hoyle revealed that he had proceeded with his own constituency meeting on Friday despite news of the veteran Tory’s death.
"Nothing will stop democracy, nothing will stop us carrying out our duties. Those people who don't value the job that we do, those people who don't support us will not win - hence why I've had my surgery tonight."
Labour MP Chris Bryant was cited by The Guardian as calling for "sensible measures" in parliament and at constituency locations such as church halls where MPs hold meetings.
"We don't want to live in fortresses. But I don't want to lose another colleague to a violent death," said Bryant.
Pauline Latham, Conservative MP for Mid Derbyshire, similarly suggested that the politicians put themselves in a “vulnerable position over surgeries.”
The latter are essentially open office meetings allowing constituents to speak to their MP one-on-one, where issues raised range from local bin collections to matters of national concern. MPs typically hold surgeries once a week and advertise them locally or online.
"Maybe we need more security at places like that where the public know where we are - and so perhaps there should be a bigger police presence supporting MPs," said Pauline Latham.
After the fatal stabbing, Labour MP Lucy Powell said she had received "a number of reassuring calls from Greater Manchester Police" with "some extra measures and support being put in place".
Other senior Tories urged a rational approach to the mulled new security measures.
Lord Pickles, a former Conservative Party chairman, was quoted as pointing out that for all parliamentarians security risks were "part of the job".
"There are some places in the world... where they [politicians] operate in a bubble, where they are a political class. … But David's accessibility was one of the reasons why he was such an effective operator inside parliament, inside politics… But, you know, if we sort of close up shop and just disappear behind a security bubble, it is democracy itself that will be the lesser thing."
Ex-Brexit secretary David Davis agreed, adding that David Amess himself would "hate" it if MPs were distanced from their constituents.
Fatal Constituency Stabbings
Conservative MP Sir David Amess died after being stabbed at Belfairs Methodist Church in Essex on Friday, the venue of a face-to-face meeting with members of his Southend West constituency in Leigh-on-Sea.
Authorities had discovered Amess with multiple injuries after responding to initial reports of a stabbing, with the MP ultimately dying at the scene.
A 25-year-old British man remains in Essex police custody after being arrested at the scene. Investigators currently believe the suspect acted alone, but the probe is said to be “in the early stages”.
In an early Saturday, memo the Metropolitan Police Service announced that the fatal stabbing has been declared a terrorist incident, with the probe turned over to the Met's Counter Terrorism Command. Command investigators will be working alongside the Eastern Region Specialist Operations Unit (ERSOU) and the Essex Police.
The MP's death follows the June 2016 murder of Jo Cox, a Labour MP who was shot and stabbed in a Yorkshire constituency, similarly on the day when she had been due to hold a surgery.
© REUTERS / Dylan MartinezMourners leave candles in memory of murdered Labour Party MP Jo Cox, who was shot dead in Birstall, during a vigil at Parliament Square in London, Britain June 17, 2016
Mourners leave candles in memory of murdered Labour Party MP Jo Cox, who was shot dead in Birstall, during a vigil at Parliament Square in London, Britain June 17, 2016
In May 2010, Labour MP for east Ham Stephen Timms was stabbed twice in the stomach at a constituency surgery in east London by Roshonara Choudhry, a 21-year-old student. The attacker was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommendation that she serve a minimum jail term of 15 years[.
Timms, who survived the attack, underwent emergency surgery and continues to serve as MP for East Ham.
In the wake of the murder funds channeled towards enhanced security arrangements for MPs rose substantially, according to accounts from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. MPs spent £2.5m on security in 2016/17 - up from £170,000 the previous year.