The Terrorism Acts in 2015 (December 2016)

The last of my six annual reports into the operation of the Terrorism Acts was laid before Parliament on 1 December.  It can be found in web-accessible and print versions here Рor open this PDF terrorism-acts-report-1-dec-2016 .

The report covers 2015 but contains much 2016 material as well.  I deposited a final version with the Government on 9 October, though in a very few respects (conviction of Thomas Mair for the killing of Jo Cox MP: 2.23) I was able to make later additions.

It is published later in the year than I would have liked, the main reason being the Bulk Powers Review which unexpectedly occupied three months over the summer.¬† The Government will want to ensure that when my successor takes over in February, it remains true to the promise of Theresa May, when Home Secretary, that¬†the Independent Reviewer’s¬†reports will be published “on receipt” (as statute requires) and promptly.¬† That has¬†in practice¬†meant (allowing time for fact and security-checking) between 2 and 6 weeks from submission of the final draft.

Some of the questions the report tries to answer are:

  1. How do the threats from Northern Irish, extreme right-wing and Islamist terrorism compare? Report ch 2
  2. Who deserves credit for courage and good humour under fire? Report 2.18
  3. UK role in European counter-terrorism cooperation, and why Brexit will not relieve UK from EU data protection standards. Report 3.15-3.20.
  4. Definition of terrorism: should journalists be worried? Report 4.5, 9.38-9.42
  5. Proscription: still a one-way street? Report ch 5
  6. Terrorism stop and search: figures published for forces outside London. Report ch 6
  7. Port controls: when do screening questions become a Schedule 7 examination? Report 7.32-7.37
  8. How to complain about Schedule 7: write to the police, tell YouTube or write a hit single? Report 7.60-7.65
  9. Do police have the information on Cross-Channel and Irish Sea ferry passengers that they need to keep us safe? Report 7.41-7.48
  10. Latest stats for mobile devices downloaded at UK ports? Report 7.11
  11.  Why do police still ask about mosque attendance? Read their answer in Report 7.66-7.67
  12. Is the NI criminal justice system dealing with terrorism as well as it could? Report 8.16-8.21, 9.15-9.18
  13. UK is winning its terrorism cases in the European Court of Human Rights. Report 8.38-8.49, 11.11(b)
  14. How long are sentences on British terrorists, and what did they do? Report 9.6, 9.22
  15. Is post-charge questioning being used? Report 9.29-9.31
  16. What is to be done about hate preachers? Report 9.43-9.51
  17. Threat levels have risen: but are the laws stricter than 6 years ago? Report 11.11(a)

After 21 recommendations, the report ends with a guest chapter by my Senior Special Adviser, the estimable Professor Emeritus Clive Walker QC (Hon.), on Foreign Terrorist Fighters and UK Counter-Terrorism Laws, which I have left to speak for itself, and with the text of my short recent speech to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on Terrorism and Tolerance.

There were wide-ranging media treatments of my report in The Guardian and The Register on 1 December.

Most other media coverage centred in particular on 9 and 16 above: see e.g. The Telegraph and The Times (£).

Ars Technica concentrated on the surveillance angle, though the subject-matter of the Terrorism Acts meant that I had little to say about that in my annual report.  But I participated in a radio discussion of the new Investigatory Powers Act 2016, chaired by David Aaronovich and featuring Bella Sankey of Liberty and Sir David Omand (ex-head of GCHQ), which also aired on 1 December.