The CT Bill 2018 was introduced in Parliament by the Home Secretary on 6th June.
I offer a cautious welcome.
The Bill offers several Chapters, of which only Chapter 1 is entitled â€˜Terrorist Offencesâ€™. There are six sections, of which one extends extra-territorial jurisdiction to a number of existing offences, and the other five propose some amendments to existing offences.
In other words, the CT Bill does not contain a single new terrorist offence. This despite the announcement of a CT strategy review by the Prime Minister on 4th June 2017, and the commitment in the Queenâ€™s Speech later that month to create a new Bill.
Therefore, the Government has scoured the statute book as part of the CT strategy, inspecting all of the existing terrorist offences, and has not come up with a single new terrorist offence despite the atrocities in London and Manchester last year.
This is a good thing. Moreover, I am pleased to say that it makes good my declaration ever since appointment as IRTL in March last year, namely we have sufficient offences and do not need any more.
So what do the â€˜terrorist offencesâ€™ in Chapter 1 of the new Bill entail? When the Home Secretary re-launched CONTEST with his speech on 4th June, he indicated that the new Bill amounted to â€˜digital fixesâ€™ to existing law. If I may say so, that is good shorthand for what Chapter 1 of the Bill contains. The headline offence is â€˜obtaining or viewing material over the internetâ€™ (clause 2 of Chapter 1). Not a new offence, but a clarification of the existing offence under section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000. We have known that it was the Governmentâ€™s intention to attempt this clarification since the former Home Secretaryâ€™s Party Conference speech last autumn, to which I have responded in previous writings and lectures including the Tom Sargant Memorial lecture for JUSTICE, available here. This new clarification of the section 58 offence is difficult, in my view. Well intentioned, but difficult.
I look forward to saying more about this and the other terrorist offence provisions within Chapter 1 when the Parliamentary Bill Committee sits down to scrutinise the new Bill, probably later this month.