UNIVERSITY OF HERTFORSHIRE
SIR CHRISTOPHER STAUGHTON MEMORIAL LECTURE
14TH MARCH 2018.
MAX HILL Q.C.
INDEPENDENT REVIEWER OF TERRORISM LEGISLATION
REFLECTIONS ON MY FIRST YEAR AS INDEPENDENT REVIEWER
On Wednesday 22 March 2017, 52-year old British-born Khalid Masood drove a hired vehicle across Westminster Bridge in the direction of the Palace of Westminster. He mounted the pavement twice colliding with pedestrians and then a third time crashing into the east perimeter gates of the Palace of Westminster. Masood then exited the car and ran into the vehicle entrance gateway of the Palace of Westminster, Carriage Gates, where he attacked and fatally injured PC Keith Palmer using a knife. Masood was shot at the scene by armed police protection officers who were in Parliament at the time of the attack. The whole incident lasted approximately 82 seconds. The attack resulted in 29 people injured and 6 fatalities.
The UK, in fact England, last year suffered the worst combination of terrorist attacks for many years. Since March 22nd 2017, we have all lived through the pain of witnessing murderous attacks at Westminster Bridge, followed by those at Manchester Arena, and London Bridge followed by Borough Market. The attack outside Finsbury Park Mosque on 19th June marked the fourth in this short list of major terrorism events, and there was a serious attempted attack at Parsons Green on 15th September.
I became Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation on 1st March 2017. Just in time to witness the horror that unfolded on Westminster Bridge exactly three weeks later. My task is to annually review our terrorism legislation, essentially the Terrorism Acts 2000 and 2006, together with the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIM) Act 2011 and the Terrorist Asset Freezing Act (TAFA) 2010. My first annual report into the operation of the Terrorism Acts in 2016 was delivered to the Home Office in November 2017 and published in January 2018. That report does not cover the events of 2017 which will be the focus of the next Annual Report. Meanwhile, my second report addresses the police investigation which followed the Westminster Bridge attack; the operation name of the investigation was Classific, and it encompassed the arrest of 12 people, who were detained for between 1 and 6 days, but then released without charge in every case. Having presented my report to the Home Office a month ago, it is my hope that it will be published in Parliament by the Home Secretary in time for the first anniversary of the Westminster Bridge attack, on 22nd March next week. For the time being, courtesy to Parliament requires that I maintain silence as to the detail of the report, but I can tell you that I have attempted to provide an insight into the hour by hour progress of the investigation, covering every arrest and what then happened to each of the 12 persons who were detained and ultimately released. I can also tell you that in my view this was an efficient and timely investigation, involving the appropriate use of statutory powers by the police. Just because nobody was charged, that does not mean that the police acted improperly. On the contrary, a thorough and speedy investigation was needed, arriving at the conclusion that the terrorist Masood acted alone on that day.