Churches ‘need better protection from terrorists’
The Church of England is not sufficiently protected from terrorists and should better train staff to stop attacks, an expert in church security has said.
Nick Tolson, a consultant who advises churches and cathedrals on security, said “trained vergers in cassocks” should guard churches and watch out for suspicious behaviour. The Church of England is currently working with the Metropolitan Police to formulate new detailed security advice, which is due to be published within weeks, the Telegraph can reveal. On Monday the Church also published security guidance for visitors and staff on its website.
“Even so, we know that the Abbey is not immune from attack. We need it to be open and welcoming, but also safe,” he said.
Police officers sign the book of condolence at Manchester Cathedral for the victims of last month’s terror attack Credit: Danny Lawson /PA
Church concerns about security have been raised by the two recent terror attacks in Manchester and London. Both took place close to cathedrals, with Southwark Cathedral forced to close for several days following the London Bridge attack. In a piece for the Church of England newspaper, Mr Tolson, a former cathedral verger, said: “Security has been incredibly neglected by places of worship over the past decade despite plenty of warning signs that they need to start taking it seriously and putting in place practical procedures to try and reduce the risk to people who work and attend churches in the UK.
“Over the last decade I have visited almost every cathedral and can count on one hand the number of churches that actually have effective security that does the job.”
Mr Tolson said that radio systems could be used so elderly volunteers can summon help quickly, and they should make sure they are able to shut and bolt the doors.
The Queen attends a service at Westminster Abbey in 2013. The Abbey has had to make difficult decisions about security Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Birmingham Cathedral closed for 24 hours to review its security procedures in the wake of the Manchester attack, and has now introduced random bag searches. Six cathedrals have expressed interest in receiving renewed security training in the wake of terror attacks, Mr Tolson added. Becky Clark, the Church of England s director of churches and cathedrals, said it took security “very seriously”.
She added: Some cathedrals and larger churches do also provide specialist training for staff and volunteers to keep visitors safe.
“That includes counter-terrorism training which is provided through co-operation with police.
- ^ published security guidance for visitors and staff (www.churchofengland.org)
- ^ acknowledged that churches could become targets (www.facebook.com)