The Independent Reviewer writes …


Max Hill QC

Welcome to the website of the UK Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation. I am proud to take over from my distinguished and rightly celebrated predecessor, David Anderson QC. Where he led the way in engaging with all sides in national and international discussion about terrorism and national security, so I hope to follow and to build upon David’s excellent work.

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Features

My words have been misrepresented in some quarters recently.

The sources of the controversy are:

– My interview on the Today programme on Thursday 19th October. Full transcript here.

– My Tom Sargant Memorial lecture for JUSTICE on Tuesday 24th October. Full transcript here.

At no time have I said that returning jihadis (to use the media term, but it might be more correct to say returning foreign fighters) should be welcomed rather than prosecuted. I have spoken and written about the various legal mechanisms available to our authorities in such cases, including Deprivation of citizenship for dual nationals, Temporary Exclusion Orders, the use of Schedule 7 port stop powers, the application of TPIMs in cases where there is intelligence but not evidence, and the use of prosecution in our criminal courts in every case where there is evidence of the commission of serious offences by British citizens whilst abroad.

In my Today interview, following the revelation by the Director-General of MI5 that many British citizens who travelled to Iraq or Syria are already back in the UK, I indicated that we should allow some space for individuals who do not fit into the categories requiring the legal sanctions I have listed, but who may be very young and naive; by which I mean for example the teenage girls who left a London Academy school in order to travel to Syria via Iraq. Even such teenagers would not escape prosecution if there is evidence that they have committed serious criminal offences, but if not, surely we should make an allowance for their return in circumstances where they were simply brainwashed, as immature  and vulnerable teenagers.

For the avoidance of doubt, it must be clear that in the case of those returning having fought for so-called Islamic State – which we may yet see, and which would be a different number than those identified by the DG of MI5 as having already returned – the expectation will be that prosecution and trial will be necessary in every case.

In my JUSTICE lecture, I did not seek to strike down the Home Secretary’s declared intention to legislate and to sentence for repeat viewing of extreme material online, by extension to sections 58 and 58A of the Terrorism Act 2000. However, as is clear from the full content of my lecture which I urge everyone to read, I indicated that great care must be taken with the definitions and the drafting of such legislation, including any extension of sentencing powers. It is my job to scrutinise and to comment upon any such proposals made by government.

INTERVIEW ON THE TODAY PROGRAMME 19/10/17 07:50

MAX HILL QC INDEPENDENT REVIEWER OF TERRORISM LEGISLATION

Justin Webb (JW): How great is the risk that the killers who flee from the defeat of Islamic State in Raqqa come back to Europe, to Britain, and kill people here? The battle for Raqqa is over and Islamic State lost. The centre-piece of what they thought was going to be their caliphate is gone, there’s no doubt about that, but plenty of them survived. The European Union security commissioner, Julian King, told us yesterday that about 8,000 of them might try to come to Europe. Many of them are of course European passport holders, some are British. So after Raqqa, what now?

Max Hill QC is on the line, he’s the Independent Reviewer of Terrorist Legislation and Richard Barrett is as well, former global counter terrorism director of MI6, now director of the think tank the Global Strategy Network. Good morning to you both.

Richard Barrett (RB): Good morning.

Max Hill QC (MHQC): Good morning.

JW: Can I start with you Richard Barrett, how ready are we to deal with an upsurge of people coming back from Raqqa and from other parts of the area, if indeed that is what happens now?

RB: Well some of them are back already so I suppose the security services are already dealing with that problem, and Andrew Parker said just the day before yesterday that he’d never seen so many terrorist threats out there..

JW: He’s the boss of MI5?

RB: Indeed, indeed, and he no doubt reflects the return of some of the foreign fighters, and we believe about half of the 850 or so British citizens or residents who went to join the Islamic State are now back home. But it’s not so much a question of what to do when they come back as to understand why they came back I think, and to understand a little bit about the atmosphere, the environment to which they’re returning. And if they are received as sort of heroes, people who have achieved a great thing, then clearly that makes them more dangerous than if they’re rejected by society, so the attitude of society on return I think is very important.

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Today I met with representatives of Cage, an organisation which states on its website that it aims to ‘empower communities impacted by the War on Terror’.

I have previously criticised Cage for inaccurately quoting my views about our terrorism legislation. The meeting today was against that background, and it should be remembered that my predecessor also met with Cage. Today’s meeting lasted 90 minutes and the topics on which I listened to the views expressed by Cage representatives were:

• Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000

• Current terrorism legislation

I have come under some criticism for agreeing to meet with Cage, an organisation considered to be beyond the pale in many circles.

Successive Governments have taken the view that there are some organisations with which any engagement is inappropriate, and Cage certainly falls within that category. That is of course a matter for government and it is neither my place nor would it be appropriate for me to pass judgment on their stance.

For my part, as the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, it is my duty and within my remit to engage with anyone who is affected in any way by the legislation. This not only helps inform my annual review of the legislation but also informs my wider contextual understanding of how our laws apply generally to society.

There are those who accuse me of being naïve in thinking anything may be achieved from this or any meeting with Cage, and I have addressed this on a previous post.

To those who suggest that Cage gains legitimacy from meeting with me, I respectfully disagree. And even if that is right, this is not a good enough reason to refuse to sit and listen to what they have to say. The independence of my role requires nothing less.

Finally, as I made clear to Cage representatives today, engagement does not mean endorsement. My own views will be reflected in my annual reports, the first of which will I hope be published by the end of this year.

Reports

Speeches

My words have been misrepresented in some quarters recently.

The sources of the controversy are:

– My interview on the Today programme on Thursday 19th October. Full transcript here.

– My Tom Sargant Memorial lecture for JUSTICE on Tuesday 24th October. Full transcript here.

At no time have I said that returning jihadis (to use the media term, but it might be more correct to say returning foreign fighters) should be welcomed rather than prosecuted. I have spoken and written about the various legal mechanisms available to our authorities in such cases, including Deprivation of citizenship for dual nationals, Temporary Exclusion Orders, the use of Schedule 7 port stop powers, the application of TPIMs in cases where there is intelligence but not evidence, and the use of prosecution in our criminal courts in every case where there is evidence of the commission of serious offences by British citizens whilst abroad.

In my Today interview, following the revelation by the Director-General of MI5 that many British citizens who travelled to Iraq or Syria are already back in the UK, I indicated that we should allow some space for individuals who do not fit into the categories requiring the legal sanctions I have listed, but who may be very young and naive; by which I mean for example the teenage girls who left a London Academy school in order to travel to Syria via Iraq. Even such teenagers would not escape prosecution if there is evidence that they have committed serious criminal offences, but if not, surely we should make an allowance for their return in circumstances where they were simply brainwashed, as immature  and vulnerable teenagers.

For the avoidance of doubt, it must be clear that in the case of those returning having fought for so-called Islamic State – which we may yet see, and which would be a different number than those identified by the DG of MI5 as having already returned – the expectation will be that prosecution and trial will be necessary in every case.

In my JUSTICE lecture, I did not seek to strike down the Home Secretary’s declared intention to legislate and to sentence for repeat viewing of extreme material online, by extension to sections 58 and 58A of the Terrorism Act 2000. However, as is clear from the full content of my lecture which I urge everyone to read, I indicated that great care must be taken with the definitions and the drafting of such legislation, including any extension of sentencing powers. It is my job to scrutinise and to comment upon any such proposals made by government.