MI5 - Security Service

Domestic Extremism

Domestic extremism mainly refers to individuals or groups that carry out criminal acts of direct action in pursuit of a campaign. They usually aim to prevent something from happening or to change legislation or domestic policy, but try to do so outside of the normal democratic process. They are motivated by domestic causes other than the dispute over Northern Ireland’s status.

Aftermath of David Copeland's bombing of Brick Lane, London, in April 1999

At various times in the recent past, a range of groups have fallen into this category. They have included violent Scottish and Welsh nationalists, right- and left-wing extremists, animal rights extremists and other militant single-issue protesters.

The vast majority of people involved in animal rights, nationalist and political campaigns are peaceful. However, such causes have sometimes attracted extremists who have resorted to violence and intimidation. For example, some extremist animal rights campaigners have attacked property and made threats of violence. They have also posted hoax bombs to homes and offices as part of organised campaigns against animal-testing companies.

Domestic extremists may seek to carry out solo acts of violence. In 1999, David Copeland, a neo-Nazi, carried out a series of bomb attacks against gay and ethnic minority targets in London. His attacks killed three people and injured 129 more.

For the most part the actions of domestic extremists pose a threat to public order, but not to national security. They are normally investigated by the police, not the Security Service.

The National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit, formerly known as the National Domestic Extremism Unit new window, continues to take the lead in setting the strategic national direction for domestic extremism intelligence and supports UK police forces in tackling these threats.

The NDEDIU remains part of the SO15 Counter Terrorism Command new window under the existing Metropolitan Police lead force arrangements.

Key points

  • Extremist domestic groups may aspire to carry out violence.
  • Mostly not a threat to national security.
  • Police rather than the Security Service take the lead on investigating domestic extremism.

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