The West Midlands has seen a 'rise in the threat' from neo-Nazi groups, according to a leading counter terrorism officer.

And this has led to three court cases over membership of the illegal far-right group National Action over the past 18 months.

Speaking at Tuesday's Strategic Policing and Crime Board (SPCB) , superintendent Paul Betts admitted that the fight against Islamic extremism remains the Counter Terrorism Unit's (CTU's) main priority.

But he also added that the West Midlands has seen a surge in the prevalence of right-wing extremism, with outlawed group National Action of particular interest to the force over the past 18 months.

Formed in 2013, National Action is defined by 'Hope not Hate' as a neo-Nazi group that in 2016 became the first far-right group to be outlawed by the government since the Second World War.

How neo-Nazi group National Action targeted Britain's disaffected youth

Supt Betts said that the region has been at the forefront of the fight against the group.

"There is a long term trend both in the pursuit space and in the prevent space now of a rise in the threat from neo-Nazi groups, so far-right and extreme right-wing," he said.

"It remains behind Islamic terror in terms of the threat, but it is increasing.

"So there was an uplift [in funding] that was given to counter terrorism last year in response to the attacks, and it’s one being funded. And it’s fair to say that the threat from the Islamic side hasn’t diminished, that’s still our number one priority.

"But we are seeing an increase in the right-wing stuff, and our region has actually been at the forefront of that in terms of the degradation of National Action.

"We’re now on to our third trial at Birmingham Crown Court in the past 18 months for membership of National Action, and we’ve had our first convictions in this region for membership of the neo-Nazi right-wing group."

Chief Constable Dave Thompson was also at the meeting, and agreed that the rise of right-wing groups has presented an added challenge for counter terrorism police.

But he said that the change in the categorisation of right-wing extremism has helped the force tackle its rise in the area.

"I think a number of things have changed around the extreme right-wing," he said.

"There is an enhanced role now in the security services in that space, it was very much a police issue, it’s now much more aligned with the arrangements we would expect to see around other forms of terrorism.

"And that’s a very good thing because it is an elevated threat."