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New terrorism tsar: High Wycombe plot was wake up call
A PLOT originating in High Wycombe to blow up seven transatlantic passenger jets was a wake up call for the area, Thames Valley's new terrorism tsar says.
Rajinder Sophal said there is no room for complacency, citing the case of Assad Sarwar, described as the 'quartermaster' of an Al Qaeda plot. He was convicted in 2009.
Mr Sophal has become the new subject champion on organised crime and terrorism on the Thames Valley Police and Crime Panel.
He said: "It was a wake-up call I think for everybody. I think it is a lesson to all of us that we can't be complacent.
"We need to be vigilant all the time and play our part in encouraging people to come together, which is completely the opposite of what these groups are trying to do - to create divisions in our community."
Mr Sophal, 57, a former director at the Racial Equality Council in Reading, believes it is not just religious fanatics that are a cause concern, pointing at national right wing extremist groups encouraging hatred as well.
His message to extremists is: "The most important things to say grow up, these things are very dangerous and I think those sorts of individuals are behaving like children. It can be devastating, the impact it has on our communities.
"I want to encourage them away from the extremist activity that they are involved with.
"I'm happy to talk to them and listen why they are doing the activities that they are, and with a bit of luck hopefully change their minds."
The panel is said to have become the first in the country to create rapporteurs for the different fields of policing. The panel's role is to act as a watchdog to Police and Crime Commissioner Anthony Stansfeld, Conservative.
Mr Sophal, one of the panel's two independent members said although ultimate responsibility lies the commissioner, he believes he can make an important contribution.
He said: "What the commissioner will want do is use members of our panel as a resource.
"As well as scrutinising the work that he does, we will be there to support it."
The panel's four other subject champions will cover domestic abuse, safeguarding vulnerable people and protecting the visible presence of police to cut crime and the fear of crime.
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