UK Politics

Police urge MPs to review security after Jo Cox attack

Tributes in Parliament Square Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mrs Cox has been remembered at vigils in her constituency and in Westminster

Police have urged MPs to review security at constituency surgeries after the fatal attack on Jo Cox.

Labour's Neil Coyle said MPs had been "warned of copycat attacks" while Ben Bradshaw said they had been told to hold appointment-only surgeries.

Separately a man has been charged under the Malicious Communications Act over a phone call made to Mr Bradshaw.

Mrs Cox was shot dead outside a library where she was due to hold a surgery in her West Yorkshire constituency.

A 52-year-old man has been arrested.

Tributes paid to Jo Cox

Obituary: A proud Yorkshire lass

Husband's tribute: Zest for life

Previous attacks on MPs

The MP's surgery, which had been advertised on her website, was to be at the public library in Birstall, a small market town.

The Times reported police had been due to put extra security in place at these events, after she had been harassed in a stream of messages over the past three months - but there is no known link between the messages and Thursday's attack.

Image copyright AP
Image caption MPs at Westminster are protected by armed police

MPs in Parliament are protected by layers of security and armed police - but in their constituencies, many meet voters face-to-face on a weekly basis.

Like many MPs, Mrs Cox said on her website: "No appointment is necessary, please just come along."

'Additional security'

A National Police Chiefs' Council spokeswoman said police forces across the country had been asked to reiterate advice to MPs about personal safety and "consider any new security concerns they may have".

She added: "Officers will offer further guidance and advice where an MP requests it on a case-by-case basis depending on any specific threat or risk."

Bermondsey MP Mr Coyle said: "We've all been warned of copycat attacks."

"Police have been in touch with many MPs to offer additional security for those of us who are having surgeries today."

Image copyright AP
Image caption Mrs Cox, a mother of two, was attacked outside her constituency surgery in Birstall

And former Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw told the BBC on Friday: "Advice has been given to all of us to have appointment-only surgeries."

It has emerged Devon and Cornwall Police have charged a 37-year-old man with sending "communication of an offensive nature" following an abusive telephone call made to his Parliamentary office.

Emails from the whips' offices have been sent to MPs advising them to talk to local police forces about security measures.

Analysis by BBC Parliamentary Correspondent Mark D'Arcy

Image copyright AP

By any standard, today's MPs are both more independent and more active than previous generations.

But there's a side of an MP's life that they don't talk about very much; fear.

One MP for a leafy south-eastern constituency told me yesterday that he always felt a surge of relief when he passed through the armed police cordon that protects Westminster.

Every MP has a tale or two about agitated constituents ranting threats and kicking furniture, and every time, they wonder how far it will go.

Is that vaguely threatening comment on Twitter or Facebook the start of something more sinister?

Has that threatening visitor to the surgery got the anger out of their system, or will they come back, perhaps with a knife?

Read Mark's full piece.

Deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle told BBC Radio 4's World at One: "I think what we have done is put procedures in place to support MPs, but not just MPs, it's staff and family as well. My problem is persuading my colleagues to take up what we've got in security measures."

He added: "Each MP will have to decide what they feel they need because it's not one-size-fits-all."

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Media captionJo Cox was considered a rising star, as Carole Walker reports

Labour MP Caroline Flint told the BBC that she had spoken to counterparts in the US and across the world who were "quite astonished at the up close and personal relationship we have with our constituents".

She said surgeries were a "good and very positive" part of British democracy but MPs had to be "mindful" about their safety and that of their staff in the face of "sometimes abusive" constituents.

The Labour MP for Barnsley Central, Dan Jarvis, said: "I know MPs are scared. We'll be reviewing our security, but I'll walk through Barnsley today like every Friday."

Fellow Labour MP Jonathan Reynolds was going ahead with his constituency surgery but with "security present."

Gavin Barwell, the Conservative MP for Croydon Central, said he had made security changes at his office after a man threatened to kill him earlier this month.

He said: "We used to have a door that was unlocked. People could just walk in and talk to my staff.

"We're keeping the door locked at the moment and admitting people when they have an appointment or if we know them, or are relaxed about who they are."

'Heavy hearts'

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: "Politicians all over the country will hold Friday surgeries today. We'll do so with heavy hearts. But it's what we do. May it never change."

But Rachel Reeves, whose Leeds West seat is close to Mrs Cox's Batley and Spen constituency, told the BBC: "The work of an MP in our surgeries, our work in the community must continue but I think it's right today that as well as ceasing the campaigning in the referendum that we close our office."

Labour's Stephen Timms, who survived being stabbed twice in the stomach by a constituent in 2010, said police had then asked if he wanted a metal detecting arch at his East Ham constituency surgeries, but he had been reluctant to have one installed.

"The problem with that would be that it would make going to see your MP a pretty unpleasant experience and none of us want that to happen."

Dr David James, of the Fixated Threat Assessment Centre (FTAC), a Home Office unit which deals with security risks to public figures, said nobody wanted "fortified constituency surgeries" but things could be done to persuade MPs more generally to report disturbing behaviour.

He said: "One of the problems is that MPs, some MPs, tend to see this sort of aggressive behaviour as something that goes with the job. It isn't and it shouldn't be."

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