British MPs could get police protection with constituents after Amess murder

Fatal stabbing of Tory backbencher prompts security review as suspect (25) in custody

Locals in Leigh-on-Sea, England have held a vigil for British MP David Amess, one day after the politician was stabbed to death while holding a meeting with constituents in a local church. Video: Reuters

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MPs could receive police protection at constituency surgeries as the British government reviews security following last Friday’s killing of veteran Conservative David Amess. Home secretary Priti Patel said such protection was “actively under consideration” in an effort to ensure that MPs can continue to meet constituents face to face.

Police have already contacted all MPs to advise them on how to improve their security but Ms Patel said other measures were being considered.

“This isn’t about just saying let’s just go for option A – have bodyguards or security. There’s a panoply of measures, and we have to be proportionate in terms of the risk individuals are subject to, and that is based on one-on-one engagement with the police who do those assessments,” she told the BBC.

Sir David was stabbed to death during a regular surgery at a church in his Essex constituency of Southend. Police have arrested 25-year-old Ali Harbi Ali on suspicion of murder and are holding him under anti-terrorism legislation.

Ali, who is British, is the son of Harbi Ali Kullane, a former media adviser to the prime minister of Somalia, who moved to Britain some years ago. Police searched the family home in Croydon over the weekend, along with two other addresses.

Ali is reported to have been referred to Prevent, a government programme aimed at young people who are in danger of being radicalised, when he was younger but he is not believed to have been an MI5 “subject of interest”.

Encrypted messaging

Ms Patel said the Prevent programme was under review but she also said that the government could compel technology companies to give the authorities access to encrypted messaging services.

“I’m very vocal about end-to-end encryption, and I am for a reason. I think these companies should be held to account. I think they should be working with law enforcement and the authorities, we’re going to change our laws around this through the online harms bill,” she told Times Radio.

“We will put in fines, sanctions against tech companies that do not cooperate because they cannot . . . hide behind this facade of encryption, saying that it’s a breach of privacy.”

Boris Johnson and Labour leader Keir Starmer visited the scene of the killing on Saturday to pay their respects to Sir David, who was one of the most popular members of the House of Commons. Commons speaker Lindsay Hoyle said that despite Friday’s killing, the second violent killing of an MP in five years, public representatives must continue to be able to meet constituents face to face.

“The very essence of being an MP is to help and be seen by our constituents. They are the people who elected us to represent them, so surely making ourselves available to them is the cornerstone of our democracy?” he said.

“However, we now need to take stock and review whether those measures are adequate to safeguard members, staff and constituents, especially during surgeries. We are working closely and at pace with the Home Office and the police to identify options.”