My annual report on the operation of the Terrorism Acts 2000 and 2006 was laid before Parliament by the Home Secretary¬†on the morning of Thursday 17 September.¬† You can download it here:
I was interviewed about countering extremism (together with surveillance and the Northern Ireland related terrorism) on¬†World at One (BBC Radio¬†4)¬†on publication day.
As usual, the report contains a summary of the current terrorist threat (ch 2) and of the way in which the various special terrorism powers (stop and search, port powers, arrest, detention and¬†prosecution) were used during 2014 and in some cases more recently (chh 3-8).¬†¬†¬†¬†A number of Islamist plots were thwarted in Great Britain and terrorist violence remains an unfortunate fact of life in parts of Northern¬†Ireland, where some plots were carried out but police activity has saved lives.Arrests and charges are running at a very high level.¬† Port powers, recently considered by the Supreme Court in the case of¬†Beghal,¬†were¬†used less extensively but more effectively during the period under review.¬† There were multiple convictions of both Islamist and extreme right-wing terrorists in England.
There is also a chapter (ch 9) on countering extremism.¬† Extremism¬†has been defined by the Government as “vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values”: it¬†thus extends to a range of activity that¬†is not caught by the current law as¬†terrorism, incitement to violence,¬†stirring up¬†hatred or abuse.¬†¬† It is right and proper that the Government should have a counter-extremism strategy, details of which will be announced later in the year. But plans to extend the legal impediments to free speech, by way of¬†the proposed¬†Counter-Extremism Bill, are likely to be controversial.¬† Based on my¬†experience as the reviewer of terrorism legislation, I¬†identify some of the issues that Parliament will need to look out for when the Counter-Extremism Bill –¬†which will be aimed at¬†suppressing “extremist activity”, including by “extremist disruption orders”¬†– comes before Parliament in this session.¬† As I say at 9.30:
“These issues matter because they concern the scope of UK discrimination, hate speech and public order laws, the limit that the state may place on some of our most basic freedoms, the proper limits of surveillance, and the acceptability of imposing suppressive measures without the protections of the criminal law.¬† If the wrong decisions are taken, the new law risks provoking a backlash in affected communities, hardening perceptions of an illiberal or Islamophobic approach, alienating those whose integration into British society is already fragile and playing into the hands of those who, by peddling a grievance agenda, seek to drive people further towards extremism and terrorism.”
The final chapter (ch 10) is about the future of independent review.
I make (or repeat) a number of recommendations, including (against the background of NHS commissioning) a recommendation that steps are taken to retain the current high quality of provision for forensic medical examiners in Terrorism Act detention: see 7.28-7.34.
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