UK considering extra checks for van hire to deter terrorist attacks | UK news

Drivers trying to rent vans in the UK could be subject to additional checks to try to prevent further terrorist attacks of the kind seen in Barcelona last week.

The government, police and vehicle rental industry have been discussing ways to deter further attacks using vans since mass casualties were inflicted inincidents across Europe from Nice to London.

Tightening regulations was among measures being worked on, said a government spokeswoman. “The threat from terrorism is changing and so must our response. That is why we are reviewing our counter-terrorism strategy and powers and why we have ploughed extra resources into counter-terrorism.

“The Department for Transport is also working with the police and the vehicle rental industry to explore what more can be done to prevent the malicious use of hire vehicles. This includes looking at what more rental companies could do before an individual can hire a vehicle.”

One measure under discussion is whether customers could be cross-checked immediately by police against terrorist watch lists before hiring a vehicle.

Staff at rental firms are already vigilant for potential criminal activity, with an industry database of suspect customers, but current checks are limited to identity, credit and insurance.

According to the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), whose members handle about 75% of vehicle hires in the UK, most firms are keenly aware of the risks, with counter-terrorism posters and hotline numbers prominent in their rental branches. But legal compliance and technology issues would hinder bringing in any universal checks.

Toby Poston of BVRLA said: “The industry is obviously determined to prevent these attacks. We’ve been in discussions with various government departments and law enforcement agencies, and we have to make sure we comply with data protection and laws on discrimination.

“Ultimately, the police and government are the only ones who can make any changes. We want some kind of cross referencing of the data given to rental companies and the counter terrorism watchlist.”

Hire companies already access the shared Rental Industry Secure Customer (RISC) database to warn of potential problem or criminal inquiries. But Poston said linking in real time for police or security checks would be a complex task for an industry, with many small businesses with different booking systems.

Rental firms are usually unwilling to hire out large trucks to new customers who do not have a business account. The terrorists who carried out the London Bridge attacks in June had unsuccessfully attempted to hire a 7.5-tonne vehicle.

But anyone with a UK driving licence can normally hire a transit van or vehicle up to 3.5 tonnes.

A van was used to kill 13 people on Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s most famous thoroughfare, on Thursday, in the latest of a series of attacks across Europe in which a vehicle was used as a weapon. The lethal potential of a large vehicle was demonstrated horrifically in Nice in 2016 when a lorry was driven through crowds celebrating Bastille Day, killing 86 people.

Since then, similar attacks have been carried out in Berlin, where a lorry driver killed 12 people at a Christmas market in December, and in Stockholm, killing five in April.

A van has been used to plough into crowed in two attacks in London this year, London Bridge and Finsbury Park. In a third attack, on Westminster Bridge, a car was used.

Barriers have been fitted in some streets in the capital to try to protect crowds from further attack.

While bomb attacks such as at Manchester Arena in May, which killed 22 people, have been comparatively limited in recent years, security services are grappling with how to contain the threat posed by “low-tech” methods such as the use of knives or vehicles.

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