Drivers should face identity checks when hiring vehicles amid rise in terror attacks using vans and lorries, says former terrorism tsar

Picture issued by the Metropolitan Police of the van used in the London Bridge attacks
Picture issued by the Metropolitan Police of the van used in the London Bridge attacks
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Drivers should be subject to identity checks when hiring vehicles as part of measures to tackle the use of lorries and vans in attacks, a former terror laws watchdog has said.

Lord Carlile of Berriew called for a number of steps after Barcelona became the latest European city hit by the terrorist tactic.

The peer, who was Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation from 2001 to 2011, warned it is "all too easy for terrorist events using vehicles to occur".

He told the Press Association: "Vehicle hire contracts should be subject to identification checks, and hire company industry bodies should be subject to a code of practice to protect against vehicle hire to criminals of all kinds, to be negotiated and agreed with Government within a very short period of time."

Under the proposed regime, hire firms would be required to carry out "standard checks" and report any concerns or anomalies, he said.

Lord Carlile also recommended that local planning authorities should be obliged to ensure that appropriate barriers exist to protect pedestrianised areas.

He said: "Counter-terrorism protection should be a requirement of all planning consents in public spaces where the population foreseeably will congregate. This is primarily a matter for local councils."

The potential for large vehicles to inflict mass casualties was laid bare in horrifying fashion in July last year when a lorry drove through crowds gathered to celebrate Bastille Day in Nice, killing 86 people and injuring scores of others.

Then in December 2016, an attacker drove a lorry into a crowded Christmas market in central Berlin, killing 12 people.

This year in the UK, vehicles have been at the centre of attacks on Westminster, London Bridge and Finsbury Park.

In the wake of the incidents in Britain, there were suggestions that van rental could be subject to more stringent checks - while officers appealed for vehicle hire and haulage firms with suspicions about rental attempts to come forward.

Khuram Butt, the ringleader of the London Bridge terror gang, had attempted to hire a 7.5-tonne lorry hours before the attack.

However, his payment method failed so he resorted to "plan B" and rented a white van which ploughed into pedestrians as the perpetrators launched their deadly rampage in June.

UK authorities have also been looking closely at physical security measures.

Earlier this year, police announced plans to step up the use of the National Barrier Asset - a collection of temporary equipment including security fences and gates - to protect crowded events.

Scotland Yard reviewed the security of 33 bridges around the capital and a number were fitted with barriers designed for "hostile vehicle mitigation".

Guidance for armed police has also been tweaked. Previously, firearms officers had the option of shooting at a moving vehicle, but this was discouraged as it was felt it could increase the risk to the public.

But the guidance has been revised so that firing at a car, van or lorry when it is on the move is an accepted tactic for incidents such as those seen in Nice and Westminster.

Containing the threat posed by "low-tech" attack methods such as the use of knives or vehicles is one of the major challenges for security services as they attempt to stop Islamic State-directed or inspired plots.