There were eight new Treasury designations in the year to September 2014 under the Terrorist Asset-Freezing &c Act 2010 Рmore than the total for the previous three years.  There has been an attempt to use asset-freezing legislation to respond to the threat posed by UK residents  who travel to and from Syria and Iraq for the purposes of terrorism.   But bearing in mind that over 600 Britons have travelled out there, the small number of designations indicates that asset-freezing has played only a marginal role in combating the most serious terrorist threat of the present time.

12 long-term prisoners were delisted over the same period, demonstrating that the annual review system works well.

For designated persons at liberty in the United Kingdom (of whom there were three in September 2014), the effect of an asset freeze can be “oppressive and disheartening”.¬† Managing the licensing &c¬†is also labour-intensive on both sides.¬† Further improvements to the operation of the system, some of them prompted by previous recommendations, are¬†under way.¬† ¬†But it remains important that consideration continues to be given by all concerned to the greater use of TAFA 2010 as a way of disrupting persons who cannot be prosecuted but in respect of whom financial restrictions are needed in order to protect the public from terrorism.¬† A collaborative effort is called for between, in particular, police and intelligence agencies, the CPS, Treasury and OSCT.¬† More could also be done to ensure the highest possible quality of consideration at the meetings that consider new designations, so increasing the probability that decisions will be fully defensible in legal proceedings.

Two problems of a more general nature are:

  • so-called “de-banking” or “de-risking”,¬† when banking facilities are withdrawn from persons or organisations falling outside a bank’s risk appetite.¬† The consequences are negative not only for those who lose banking facilities, but for the authorities who lose any possibility of monitoring their financial transactions.
  • the impact of terrorist financing laws on organisations which seek to distribute aid in regions of the world under the effective control of terrorist organisations.

I set out some pointers towards a possible solution in my report (echoing, in part, the recommendations of Parliament’s Draft Protection of Charities Bill Committee which reported recently under the chairmanship of Lord Hope of Craighead), and urge the Government, financial institutions and NGOs to work towards a resolution of these difficult issues.

Government Response to July 2014 Terrorism Acts report (Cm 9032)

This is a thoughtful response with new information relating to the threat and the funding of counter-terrorism.

It is noted that one of my recommendations on the definition of terrorism (a reduction in the definition of “terrorism-related activity”) has been given effect in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015.¬† The other recommended changes are not ruled out, but judged “premature” since the UK definition of terrorism is “the material focus of ongoing litigation” in Beghal (currently before the Supreme Court) and Miranda (currently before the Court of Appeal).

Decisions on my recommendations regarding clarification of and change to Schedule 8 (detention) are also deferred pending the outcome of litigation, this time the long-running Sher and Duffy cases in Strasbourg.  Sympathy is however expressed for the recommendation Рwhich I consider unanswerable Рthat the detention clock under s41 should be stopped as it is under PACE on admission of a suspect to hospital.

Developments are noted on a number of other fronts including Schedule 7 (where my recommendations are recalled in the context of technical changes to the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015), the EU opt-out and the establishment of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Board, the details of which are still under consideration by Ministers.

The Home Secretary concludes her response with the words: “I look forward to receiving your future reports.”¬† We shall see!