Syria civil war: Police hail UK arrests of would-be jihadis

Counter-terror chief hails improvement in department, but accepts officers still do 'really stupid things'

Britain's most senior policewoman has welcomed a rise in the number of Syria-related arrests in the UK as families turn in their sons and brothers to try to stop them joining the jihad in the war-torn country.

Some 400 Britons have gone to fight in Syria, The Times said, mainly with groups opposed to President Bashar al-Assad, some of which are linked to al-Qa'ida.

Since the beginning of the year there have been more Syria-related arrests than in the whole of last year, the newspaper said, caused by a rise in parents preferring to turn their sons over to the police rather then see them killed in war.

Cressida Dick, assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and the country's most senior counter-terrorism officer, urged more families to contact police and promised that any investigations would be carried out sensitively.

She told The Times: "We're getting lots of support from families who are ringing up and saying they are worried about their brother, son, sister sometimes, friend or indeed from other sources of information and intelligence.

"We (have) certainly got a lot more information and a lot more concerned people. We want to increase the proportion of people that would contact us, but we are getting a lot of calls for help.

"We are working effectively with those families, it's obviously a very complex issue particularly if it results in a loved one being arrested."

Ms Dick, who heads an all-female leadership of Britain's anti-terrorist police team, said her department had undergone a transformation in the last decade.

She said: "Counter-terrorism policing, if you went back 10 years, would have been seen as the macho end of a macho organisation."

But now, she said, the greater emphasis is on "ensuring that as far as possible we are in tune with the communities that we're serving".

She also said greater scrutiny had brought about significant changes in policing.

"We are much more professional, much better at our jobs, much more accountable, much less inward looking.

"We're not perfect, we make mistakes and sometimes we have people who do really stupid things. A lot of that change for the better has come from the increased scrutiny."

Speaking last week before the revelation of police cover-ups and spying on the family of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence, Ms Dick told the newspaper: "I sometimes feel that we are, in policing, on the edge of spending too much time looking over our shoulders and examining what happened before, rather than getting on with today's job."

As well as her counter-terrorism role, Ms Dick heads the Met team that convicted two of Stephen Lawrence's killers in 2012, and said the force was "completely committed to bringing the others responsible to justice".

Yesterday she told The Times that last week's revelations had raised "very important issues about undercover policing and the way in which the Lawrences have been treated".

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk