Barcelona attacks aftermath: UK seeks to tighten rules for hiring vans, invests extra resources to counter terrorism

London: The UK is planning to tighten rules for hiring vans and large vehicles after the last week's terror attack in Barcelona in which a hired van was driven into pedestrians, killing 13 people.

Britain's police and vehicle rental industry have been discussing ways to deter similar attacks using vans to cause mass casualties, including in London earlier in 2017.

"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," a UK government spokesperson said.

After the attack police officers cordoned off a street in Barcelona, Spain. AP

After the attack police officers cordoned off a street in Barcelona, Spain. AP

"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," the spokesperson said.

The government is exploring the possibility of potential customers of such hired vehicles being cross-checked immediately by police against terrorist watch lists.

Current checks conducted by vehicle rental firms are limited to identity, credit, and insurance.

The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), whose members handle about 75 percent of vehicle hires in the UK, want "cross referencing" of data given to rental companies and the counter-terrorism watchlist.

Currently, anyone with a valid UK driving licence can normally hire a transit van or vehicle of up to 3.5 tonnes.

The new measures come in the wake of a van being used for killing 13 people on Las Ramblas, Barcelona's most famous thoroughfare, last Thursday, in the latest of a series of attacks across Europe in which a vehicle was used as a weapon.

In Nice in 2016, a lorry was driven through crowds celebrating Bastille Day, killing 86 people. Since then, similar attacks have been carried out in Berlin, Germany, where a lorry driver killed 12 people at a Christmas market in December, and in Stockholm, Sweden, killing five in April.

Hired vehicles were also used to plough into crowds in the attacks on London Bridge and Westminster Bridge earlier this year.

Massive barriers have since been erected at such busy thoroughfares in the British capital in an attempt to prevent future attacks.

Updated Date: Aug 21, 2017 22:43 PM

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