The Home Secretary today announced that âThe government intends to change the law, so that people who repeatedly view terrorist content online could face up to 15 years behind bars. The proposed changes will strengthen the existing offence of possessing information likely to be useful to a terrorist (Section 58 Terrorism Act 2000) so that it applies to material that is viewed repeatedly or streamed onlineâ.
This is the first indication we have seen of the outcome of the governmentâs counter terrorism strategy review, foreshadowed by the Prime Minister in her speech on the steps of 10 Downing StreetÂ on 4th June this year, in the aftermath of the London Bridge and Borough Market attack.
There is much for legal and other commentators to consider in todayâs announcement. May I offer the following to assist with the debate:
- The governmentâs CT strategy review has been ongoing for several months. Although I am not directly involved – nor could I be as Independent Reviewer – it is clear to me that calm, rational thought is being applied to the problem we face in this country of repeated terror attacks since March this year. I say calm, rational thought is being applied, because if that were not so I suspect we might have faced a slew of brand new âterrorism offencesâ, rushed onto the statute book in haste. Instead, we see today relatively modest proposals to tighten an existing terrorism offence, rather than to create any new laws. To this extent, I welcome this development.
- The Home Secretaryâs announcement is just that, an announcement of an intention to amend the existing offence under section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000. To make good that announcement, the government will need to bring forward a Counter Terrorism Bill (or similar title), and will need to engage the services of parliamentary draughtsmen in order to place the essential element of the amended offence (see the words which I have underlined, above) into appropriate statutory language. That is the difficult part, as to which commentators (myself included) will need to await the detailed legislative proposal once drafted.
- Whilst we wait, there are several aspects which will require very careful attention: