Dorset PCC Seeks Reassurance Over Port Security
Dorset PCC, Martyn Underhill, is seeking urgent assurances from the Government that security arrangements will be reviewed at all Dorset ports, in the light of the terrorist attacks in Paris, and the recent decision by the Government to intervene in Syria.
In the last few days, Mr Underhill has raised this issue with the Home Secretary, Theresa May, and with the Head of Counter Terrorism, Mark Rowley, to ask what they are doing to bolster the Border Force on the southern ports, and to rein back on proposed changes to Special Branch staffing in the South West. The Commissioner has also written to all Dorset MPs, stating the importance of lobbying Government over existing security arrangements at what the Commissioner calls ‘porous ports’, which he believes could leave the county, and the South West coast, vulnerable.
Mr Underhill said “Paris was a game changer, we know the terrorists crossed international borders. I am here to ensure my residents are kept safe. We know that to keep our country safe, we need a strong counter terrorism team, a strong police presence, a strong link to community intelligence, and a strong first line of defence through the Border Force and Special Branch - Ports. It’s the latter that worries me, whilst the Chancellor protected CT and Policing a fortnight ago, I need assurance from Government that the Border Force will be invested in, and that proposed cuts to the South West Special Branch are now reviewed.
“Dorset has a coastline of over 85 miles, and main ports situated at Poole and Weymouth. In my initial manifesto I pledged to keep (and have kept) a Marine Section within the Dorset Police. However, its reduced capacity does not cater for a 24hr, 7 day a week service. This exposes the coastline as a vulnerable point for unopposed access to the county, unless we have a strong Border Force and Special Branch Ports Unit as well. Dorset borders the Channel. The threat to us as a county is very clear.”
Mr Underhill added: “Port security should not be an afterthought. It needs to be part of our day to day business. We need to know who is coming in and out of our ports. However, I recognise that this is no easy feat with the sheer size of our coastline. What we need is a commitment from Government to review our existing security measures, to ensure that we have the resources to successfully monitor any threats, should they arise, on both land and water.”