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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December 2017.

Having delivered my first Annual Report to the Home Office last month, it was my hope that the Report would be published before Christmas. It is in the nature of Annual Reports that they reflect on the previous year,  therefore this Report deals with the operation of the terrorism legislation in 2016. By the same token, my predecessors report into the operation of the legislation in 2015 was published in December 2016. It is also in the nature of Independent Reviewer reporting that the content is checked for sensitivity before publication by the Home Office and presentation to Parliament. Because I have access to sensitive and secure information, I accept this necessary delay between reporting and publication. That said, it is regrettable that my Annual Report into 2016 will not now be published until the beginning of 2018. I hope it will be available early in the New Year.

In order to address the delay going forward, I have resolved to embark upon writing my Annual Report for 2017 earlier than usual. Whilst it is necessary to await publication of all of the details and statistics from the year under review, I appreciate that there will be a strong public interest in the details of how our terrorism legislation operated when all were under great strain in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks we  witnessed in London and Manchester this year. If I can, I intend to complete my Annual Report for 2017 by the summer of 2018.

This month has been notable for the publication of David Anderson QC’s report, Attacks in London and Manchester between March and June 2017: Independent assessment of MI5 and police internal reviews, December 2017. The content is fascinating. It is also timely, because I am near to completing my report into Operation Classific, the police investigation following the Westminster Bridge attack. My work necessarily follows David’s report, where he looked at the intelligence picture before the event. I resolved to report as quickly as possible on Operation Classific because it was the first of the major investigations during 2017, and because it did not lead to ongoing criminal proceedings (in contrast, for example, to the Finsbury Park incident or the Parsons Green incident). I hope to complete this report within the first two months of 2018, prior to embarking on my next Annual Report as mentioned.

2017 has been a year of tragedy, but also a year of steadfast resilience on the part of all who work so hard to keep us safe. For every right-minded citizen of this country, 2017 has also been a year of outright refusal to be cowed by terrorism. I would like to thank everyone who has helped me in whatever way  to perform my work as Independent Reviewer, and I look forward to 2018.

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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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.