Incel violence threat ‘still not being tackled’ year after deadly Plymouth shooting, MP warns

Another mass shooting like the rampage that left five victims dead in Plymouth a year ago will happen again unless the government tackles the threat posed by incels, an MP has warned.

Luke Pollard, who represents the area where the shooting took place, told The Independent it had exposed a “rotten underbelly of our society that we knew little about and have no way of challenging”.

“A year on and we still don’t really understand incel culture – the systems aren’t in place to both identify young men going down that path or how to rescue them,” he said.

“If we want to prevent another Keyham happening again, we’ve got to tackle incel culture. We need a coherent strategy as to how we deal with this.”

Jake Davison, 22, murdered his mother before roaming the streets with a shotgun and killing a three-year-old girl, her father and two other passers-by on 12 August 2021, before shooting himself dead.

It was the worst mass shooting in Britain in more than a decade, and social media posts quickly emerged suggesting that Mr Davison identified as an incel.

Short for “involuntary celibate”, the term describes a loose online movement for men who believe they are unable to have romantic or sexual relationships with women.

Although not explicitly violent, the incel movement has already been linked to several mass shootings that have left more than 50 people dead in the US and Canada since 2015.

An inquest to be held next year will probe Mr Davison’s ideology and the extent to which it affected his actions, and proceedings have already revealed that he had been reported to the Prevent counterterror programme by his mother.

Police did not declare the Plymouth shooting a terror attack, because they believed that Mr Davison was primarily driven by mental health issues and personal grievances, rather than a “political, religious, racial or ideological cause” that would meet the UK’s legal definition of terrorism.

MI5’s position is that incel ideology should not be treated automatically as terrorism, but recognised as a “potential terrorist motivation” and assessed on a case by case basis.

Mr Pollard said he understood why the Plymouth shooting was not officially defined as terrorism but warned: “[inceldom] has to fit somewhere else and it doesn’t fit anywhere else at the moment.

“It’s happening in all our communities behind closed bedroom doors on toxic parts of the internet.

“There is nothing Devon-specific about that tragedy, it could have happened anywhere round the country. Because of that, it still could again.”

Some experts are growing concerned that the current interpretation of terrorism means the potential for attacks driven by inceldom and other forms of mass violence is not being addressed.

Lee Martyn and his three-year-old daughter Sophie Martyn, were among the other victims

Researchers who have been chronicling the impact of online subcultures at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) warned that it was still “easy to stumble across and access incel communities” online, and that material is being promoted by algorithms on mainstream social media.

Milo Comerford, the head of extremism research at ISD, said inceldom was more of a “frame through which to view the world and blame others for your problems”, rather than a defined ideology.

“Incels are reflective of what’s going on more broadly with extremism and the way online communities facilitate it… it’s harder to put people into ideological buckets,” he told The Independent.

“We need to have a much better and broader violence prevention architecture that is able to anticipate, respond to and intervene in threats in a much more upstream way that isn’t just counterterrorism policing and a very narrow Prevent-type focus.”

Maxine Davison, the gunman’s mother, was the first victim of the attack

Floral tributes left in Keyham in Plymouth, Devon after the tragedy (PA)

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