Terrorism Act 2000

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This article is part of the Counter-Terrorism Portal project of SpinWatch.

The Terrorism Act 2000 (c.11) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

It supersedes and repeals the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989 and the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1996. These were temporary pieces of legislation, but the Terrorism Act 2000 is permanent.

Up to early 2004 around 500 people are believed to have been arrested under the Act; seven people had been charged. By October 2005 these figures had risen to 750 arrested with 22 convictions; the then current Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, said "the statistics illustrate the difficulty of getting evidence to bring prosecution.[1]

Figures released by the Home Office on 5 March 2007 show that 1,126 people were arrested under the Terrorsim Act 2000 between 11 September 2001 and 31 December 2006. Of this, 221 were charged with terrorism offences and only 40 convicted.[2]

Contents

Definition of Terrorism

Terrorism is defined, in the first section of the Act, as follows:[3]

Section 1. -
(1) In this Act "terrorism" means the use or threat of action where-
(a) the action falls within subsection (2),
(b) the use or threat is designed to influence the government [or an international governmental organisation][4] or to intimidate the public or a section of the public, and
(c) the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious,[racial][5] or ideological cause.
(2) Action falls within this subsection if it-
(a) involves serious violence against a person,
(b) involves serious damage to property,
(c) endangers a person's life, other than that of the person committing the action,
(d) creates a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public, or
(e) is designed seriously to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system.
(3) The use or threat of action falling within subsection (2) which involves the use of firearms or explosives is terrorism whether or not subsection (1)(b) is satisfied.

Sections (2)(b) and (e) could be criticised as falling well outside the scope of what is generally understood to be the definition of terrorism.[6]

Prior to this, terrorism was defined in a footnote of the Reinsurance Act 1993 as:[7]

acts of terrorism mean acts of persons acting on behalf of, or in connection with, any organisation which carries out activities directed towards the overthrowing or influencing, by force or violence, of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom or any other government de jure or de facto.

In the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989, terrorism was defined as:[8]

In this Act terrorism means the use of violence for political ends, and includes any use of violence for the purpose of putting the public or any section of the public in fear.

Proscribed groups

The Home Secretary has the power (as was the case in previous anti-terror legislations) to proscribe organisations that are believed to be involved in terrorist activities. Under the Terrorism Act 2006, groups that are believed to be involved in Glorification of Terrorism or Encouragement of Terrorism can also be proscribed, as is the case with the now defunct Al Ghurabaa and Saved Sect or Saviour Sect.

At present, there are

  • 45 International organisations that are proscribed under the Terrorism Act 2000, of which 2 have been proscribed under the Terrorism Act 2006 for glorification and/or dissemination of terrorist publications, and
  • 14 Organisations in Northern Ireland.[9]

International groups

This is a list of the organisations which are proscribed as international terrorist organisations undert the Terrorism Act 2000:[10]

Mujaheddin e Khalq (MeK) was removed from the list of proscribed organisations in June 2008, as a result of judgements of the Proscribed Organisations Appeals Commission and the Court of Appeal.[11]

Domestic groups

The following domestic groups (in relation to Northern Ireland) are proscribed under the Terrorism Act 2000:[12]

Section 41 (Detention Without Charge)

Section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000 authorises the police to arrest and detain any person without charge for up to 48 hours if they were or are suspected of being involved in the "commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism".[13] This period of 48 hours of pre-charge detention can be extended to seven days if the police and a judge feel this extended time period is necessary for further questioning or collating or examining of collated evidence.[14]

Under regular criminal law, an individual can only be kept for a maximum period of 96 hours (4 days), however, under the Terrorism Act 2000, the police are authorised (in accordance with a magistrates decision) to hold a suspect in pre-charge detention for a period of, initially 7 days and then (under the Criminal Justice Act 2003) 14 days and then subsequently (under the Terrorism Act 2006) 28 days.

Section 44 powers (Stop and Search)

Under section 44, the police are authorised to stop and search any vehicle or person (within an area defined by the Home Secretary) if the police suspect them of being involved in terrorism.[15] The police are also authorised to seize any article, that could "could be used in connection with terrorism".[16] However, in a landmark victory, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has declared that the arbitary nature of the section 44 powers allowed the police to stop and search any individual without having a reasonable suspicion that they are involved in terrorism or related activity and therefore ruled that this was a violation of Article 8 (Respect for Private & Family Life) of the European Convention on Human Rights.[17] The case originally came to the attention of the ECHR with the stopping and searching of Kevin Gillan and Pennie Quinton on route to an anti-arms demonstration in the Excel Centre, London, in September 2003. They were awarded £33,400 in costs and expenses."[18]

The ruling means that the British government will have replace the section 44 clause with a more proportinate and fairer power. In response to the ruling, Liberty, the human rights organisation that has supported Gillan and Quinton throughout the case have stated that "the public, police and court of human rights all share our concerns for privacy, protest, race equality and community solidarity that come with this sloppy law...In the coming weeks parliamentarians must finally sort out this mess."

Criticisms of Section 44

In relation to the section 44 powers, Osama Saeed of the Scottish Islamic Foundation and SNP candidate for Glasgow Central argued that the powers were open to abuse because police are authorised to stop and search anyone "without any suspicion of wrongdoing", which will inevitably lead to the "powers being used discriminately against people that look Asian".[19]

One of the most fragrant abuses of section 44 stop and search powers was used against "a 43-year-old man walking with his 11-year-old daughter and a neighbour's six-year-old...[the police] took his mobile phone and USB stick, searched the [11 and 6 year old] girls, took a photograph of him with their own camera and then made him stand in front of a CCTV camera so that his face was recorded".[20]

Section 57 & 58 - Possession & Collection

Section 57 - Possession for Terrorist Purposes

Under section 57, "a person commits an offence if he possesses an article in circumstances which give rise to a reasonable suspicion that his possession is for a purpose connected with the commission preperation or instigation of an act of terrorism".[21] A person guilty of a section 57 offence, upon conviction, is liable to a ten year prison sentence.[22]

One of the most notable examples of a section 57 offence was Samina Malik - famously refferred to as the Lyrical Terrorist.

Section 58 - Collection of Information for Terrorist Purposes

Under section 58, a person commits an offence if he "collects or makes a record of information (electronic or photographic) of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism". [23]

Overall impact

In his comprehensive commentary on the Terrorism Act 2000 and other anti-terrorism legislations, Professor Clive Walker of the University of Leeds states:

"The Terrorism Act 2000 represents a worthwhile attempt to fulfil the role of a modern code against terrorism, though it fails to meet the desired standards in all respects. There are aspects where rights are probably breached, and its mechanisms to ensure democratic accountability and constitutionalism are even more deficient, as discussed in the section on ‘Scrutiny’ earlier in this chapter. It is also a sobering thought, proffered by the Home Affairs Committee, that the result is that this country has more anti-terrorist legislation on its statute books than almost any other developed democracy.’ (Report on the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill 2001 (2001-02 HC 351) para.1). But at least that result initially flowed from a solemnly studied and carefully constructed legislative exercise."[24]

Alleged abuses

The laws have been criticised for allowing excessive police powers leaving scope for abuse. There have been various cases in which the laws have been used in scenarios criticised for being unrelated to fighting terrorism. Critics allege there is systematic abuse of the act against protesters. For example, the Terrorism Act 2000 was used against Chris Kitchen, a climate change activist, when he was travelling to Denmark. [25]

Most of the abuse that has taken place under the Terrorism Act 2000 has pertained to people being stopped under section 44. A notable exampl was when In October 2005 Sally Cameron was held for four hours after being arrested under Section 41 for walking on a cycle path in a controlled port area. Discussing the events of when she was arrested, Sally Cameron stated:

"I’ve been walking to work every morning for months and months to keep fit. One day, I was told by a guard on the gate that I couldn’t use the route any more because it was solely a cycle path and he said, if I was caught doing it again, I’d be arrested...The next thing I knew, the harbour master had driven up behind me with a megaphone, saying, ‘You’re trespassing, please turn back’. It was totally ridiculous. I started laughing and kept on walking. Cyclists going past were also laughing...But then two police cars roared up beside me and cut me off, like a scene from Starsky and Hutch, and officers told me I was being arrested under the Terrorism Act. The harbour master was waffling on and saying that because of September 11, I would be arrested and charged."[26]

Section 44

  • In September 2003 two people - Kevin Gillan and Pennie Quinton - intending to protest against the Defence Systems Equipment International (DSEI) show in London's Docklands, were stopped and searched under section 44. There was a huge outcry that this was a grave abuse and misuse of ant-terror powers. The pressure group Liberty took the case to High Court, but the Judge ruled in favour of the police.[27][28]
  • Journalists have frequently complained that they are stopped under section 44 whilst on their way to cover protests[30]
  • MP Andrew Pelling was questioned after photographing roadworks near a railway station [31]
  • In April 2009 a man in Enfield was questioned under section 44 for photographing a police car that he considered was inappropriately parked.[32]
  • Over 1000 anti-war protesters, were stopped ordered to empty their pockets on their way to RAF Fairford (used by American B-52 bombers during the Iraq conflict).[33]
  • During the G8 protests in 2005, a cricketer on his way to a match was stopped at King's Cross station in London under section 44 powers and questioned over his possession of a bat.[34]

References

  1. Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence, Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-73), UK Parliament Website, accessed 22 Nov 2009
  2. 1,166 Anti-Terror Arrests Net 40 Convictions, The Guardian, 5 March 2007, accessed 23 Nov 2009
  3. Part 1: Introductory, Terrorism Act 2000, accessed 23 November 2009
  4. Words in square brackets inserted by Terrorism Act 2006.
  5. Word in square brackets inserted by Counter-Terrorism Act 2008.
  6. Definitions of Terrorism, UN Office on Drugs and Crime website, version placed in web archive 12 Jan 2007, accessed in web archive 22 Nov 2009
  7. Reinsurance (Acts of Terrorism) Act 1993 (c. 18) Section 2(2)
  8. Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989 (c. 4) section 20(1)
  9. Proscribed Terrorist Groups, Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism, the Home Office, accessed 23 November 2009
  10. Proscribed Terrorist Groups, Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism, the Home Office, accessed 23 November 2009
  11. Proscribed Terrorist Groups, Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism, the Home Office, accessed 23 November 2009
  12. Proscribed Terrorist Groups, Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism, the Home Office, accessed 23 November 2009
  13. Section 41: Terrorism Act 2000 accessed 23 Nov 2009
  14. Section 41: Terrorism Act 2000 accessed 23 Nov 2009
  15. Section 44: Terrorism Act 200, accessed 23 November 2009
  16. Section 44: Terrorism Act 200, 15 December 2007, accessed 23 November 2009
  17. Stop and Search Powers Illegal,European Court Rules, The Guardian, 12 January 2010, accessed 12 January 2010
  18. Stop and Search Powers Illegal,European Court Rules, The Guardian, 12 January 2010, accessed 12 January 2010
  19. Anti-Terrorism Operation Launched, BBC News, 1 November 2007, accessed 23 November 2009
  20. Searching Children Abuses Terror Laws, The Guardian, 11 September 2009, accessed 23 November 2009
  21. Section 57: Terrorism Act 2000, accessed 23 November 2009
  22. Section 57: Terrorism Act 2000, accessed 23 November 2009
  23. Section 58: Collection of Information, Terrorism Act 2000 accessed 23 November 2009
  24. The Anti-Terrorism Legislation, (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2002)
  25. Terrorism Act Used to Stop Climate Change Activist, The Daily Telegraph, 15 October 2009, accessed 24 November 2009
  26. Two wheels: Good. Two Legs: Terrorist Suspect, The Times, 17 October 2005, accessed 23 November 2009
  27. Arms Fair Protetors Lose Legal Challenge, 31 October 2003, The Guardian, accessed 24 November 2009
  28. Police Can Use Terror Powers on Protestors, 1 November 2003, The Guardian, accessed 24 November 2009
  29. The Police Must End Their Abuse of Anti-Terror Legislation, The Telegraph, 3 October 2005, accessed 24 Noember 2009
  30. For example, see Pennie Quinton, Rebranding Protest as Extremism, The Guardian, 30 October 2009, accessed 22 November 2009
  31. Government Acts to Curb Photographer Harassment 9 April 2009, Press Gazzette, accessed 24 November 2009
  32. Man Questioned Under Terrorism Law After Taking Picture of Police Car in Park, 14 April 2009, Enfield Independent, Accessed 24 November 2009
  33. The Police Must End Their Abuse of Anti-Terror Legislation, The Telegraph, 3 October 2005, accessed 24 November 2009
  34. The Police Must End Their Abuse of Anti-Terror Legislation, The Telegraph, 3 October 2005, accessed 24 November 2009
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