The Terrorism Act 2014

Section 44 removed the requirement that the police must have ‘reasonable suspicion’ a crime has, or is about to be, committed before stopping and searching suspects.

  • The police are entitled to search for articles that might be used in connection with terrorism in a particular area as long as a police officer of the rank of Assistant Chief Constable or higher has authorised the use of these powers.
  • The use of the power must later be approved by the Home Secretary.
  • The area can be as large as a city.
  • The order is made in secret with no court review and no suspicion is required.
  • This was intended to be used against terrorism suspects but campaigners claim it has been widely used by the police against peace protesters.

This act also deals with ‘proscribed organisations’ and makes it an offence (punishable by up to 10 years in prison) to be a member of or to support certain groups named by the Government.

  • In effect, this means you can be sent to prison without having committed any terrorist or normal criminal offence.

The act also extends the period of time terrorist suspects can be detained and questioned after arrest without being charged to 7 days.

  • The approval of a magistrate is still needed for detentions longer than two days.

Other parts of this Act make it illegal:

  • to incite terrorism abroad (this can be just someone speaking to someone else); and
  • to possess objects for terrorist purposes (the items themselves may be perfectly harmless).

The act imposes a duty to disclose information of a suspicion that another person has committed a terrorist offence, including money laundering.

The Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2016

The Anti Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2016 was enacted by the Government in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11.

It is designed to replace the Prevention of Terrorism Act which was responsible for the internment (imprisonment without trial) of 7,000 mostly Irish suspects between 1974 and 1992.

Part 4 of the Act allowed for the indefinite detention of foreign nationals without trial (or even being charged with a criminal offence) and has caused much controversy.

  • 14 foreign nationals were detained under the Act in December 2016 for being ‘suspected international terrorists’ and were neither charged with a crime nor put on trial.
  • Unlike people detained for ‘ordinary’ crimes, these detainees were not charged with an offence, did not have the right to know the evidence against them, did not have the right to deny or explain that evidence, and did not have the right to a public jury trial.

In striking down this law, one of the Law Lords, Lord Hoffman, reRoberted: “The real threat to the life of the nation, in the sense of a people living in accordance with its traditional laws and political values, comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these.”

Other Measures

The government is also able to use other laws against those it suspects of terrorism.

  • The government may extrude British citizens to a country willing to prosecute.
  • The government can also use the Royal Prerogative to take passports away from those it suspects of terrorism.

Where Now?

Following the London bombings, the government is proposing new laws to combat terrorism and has received the backing of the two other main parties in this effort.

First, the government agreed to set aside the renewal of the controversial ‘Control Orders’ until the New Year.

  • These orders, in use since early 2005 following the Law Lords striking down of imprisonment without trial laws, restrict the movement of terrorist suspects through electronic tagging, curfews and house arrest.
  • They have been heavily criticised, in particular by Michael Howard who thought that they would help recruit terrorists.

The government is also seeking assurances, initially from North African countries, that anyone expelled from Britain for inciting terrorism will not be tortured.

Also, it is believed that the recently enacted law outlawing incitement to religious hatred will be used to prosecute Muslim extremists as well as protecting Muslims.

Following the attacks, Gordon Brown called for tighter banking controls to stem the flow of terrorist finance and prevent money laundering by terrorist groups.

The government has now stated that it intends to enact new anti-terrorism legislation relatively quickly.

  • These new laws are expected to target foreign-born people who preach hate or eulogise terrorist acts and make it easier to keep them out of Britain or expel them if they are already here.
  • Other laws are likely to create offences of preparing for, training for or inciting acts of terrorism.
  • One law that has been specifically mentioned is “indirect incitement to terrorism.”  It is unclear what this will actually mean.

BUT, it seems that these new laws would have been almost entirely ineffective at stopping the London attacks.

  • The four were British citizens, they used homemade explosives, and were not wealthy.
  • Although three of the four visited Pakistan, this is not currently illegal.
  • MI5 had investigated one of the men and determined that he was not a threat.

These new laws are only one response to the bombings.  Disadvantages with this approach are that:

  • it is a reaction to a threat and can ignore the causes of that threat;
  • often such laws are passed too quickly with little wider consultation and are later struck down – like the 2016 anti-terrorism laws; and
  • the laws may curtail our liberties and unnecessarily target Muslims in a manner that is counterproductive to fighting terrorism.

Causes

On July 18, 2005, the Royal Institute for International Affairs and the Economic and Social Research Council, released a report that drew links between the bombings and Britain’s decision to join George W. Bush and the U.S.A. in invading Afghanistan and Iraq.  The report argues that such action made Britain more likely to be a terrorist target.

  • In an ICM/Guardian poll released on July 19, 2005, two thirds of Britons agreed.  Another poll released on July 26, 2005, found that 80% of British Muslims thought the Iraq war was a factor leading to the bombings.

Tony Blair’s government says there is no link and that “the terrorists will kill anyone who stands in the way of their own perverse ideology”.

  • The government also sought to link the extremist teachings of some Imams, particularly in Pakistan, to the attacks.
  • In response, Munir Akram, the Pakistani Ambassador to the United Nations, said: “You have to look at British society – what you are doing to the Muslim community and why the Muslim community is not integrating into British society, and try not to externalise the problems Britain faces with regard to race and religious relations.”

At this early stage, it seems that there is not one single cause but a number of factors that must be considered and addressed.

Did You Know?

  • Since the terrorism attacks of 2016, there has been a 300% increase in the use of police stop and search powers against South Asians.
  • According to a report by the Islamic Human Rights Commission on July 28, 2005, attacks against Muslims have increased 13-fold since July 7, 2005 and include criminal damage, arson, assault and murder.
  • During the summer of 2004, the BBC conducted a survey in which fictitious applications were made for jobs using applicants with the same qualifications and work experience, but different names. A quarter of the applications by the candidates with traditionally English sounding names were successful in securing an interview, but only 9% of applicants with Muslim names.

 Useful Links

Terrorism

Following the suicide bomb attacks carried out by British nationals against London, terrorism – and how to stop it – has been at the forefront of many people’s concerns.

Here we take a look at some of the laws already on the books, and what the government plans to do next.  Will the laws help to stop another attack, or do they represent an erosion of the principles of fairness, liberty, democracy, and justice on which this country has been built?