Of the three annual reports that I am required to produce, the fullest and most wide-ranging is my summer report into the operation of the Terrorism Acts.
The 130-page¬† report was laid before Parliament on 17 July 2013, and the Government responded in November.
Featured in the report, which covers the year 2012,¬†were:
- my fullest assessment yet of the terrorist threat to the UK, both from al-Qaida related terrorism, Northern Ireland related terrorism and extreme right wing terrorism,
- a sketch of the counter-terrorism machine,
- a look back to the Olympic and Paralympic Games,¬†successfully protected as a result of¬†meticulous preparation, without new laws being passed or special powers being invoked,
- a review of the¬†application of the terrorism offences, which were used to charge 43 persons in Great Britain during the year and which resulted in sentences of up to 21 years, mostly after guilty pleas,
- an account of¬†the early uses of¬†the¬†new power to review the conditions of detention of terrorist suspects,
- reflections on the definition of terrorism, often criticised as over-broad,
- a¬†review of progress on¬†the overhaul of rules and procedures for banning terrorist groups, and
- material to inform the current parliamentary debate on the exercise of port powers.
A synopsis of my findings and conclusions is in the¬†Executive Summary at the start of the report.
The United Kingdom has a full armoury of anti-terrorism laws.¬†¬†I took the view that the majority¬†of those laws¬†unfortunately remain justified by the nature of the threat.¬† But I¬†commended the Government for¬†the cautious and selective liberalisation¬†of the past three years, which has removed or diluted some of the more intrusive powers without materially increasing the risks to¬†public safety.
I advised that some further changes¬†could safely be made.¬† In particular:
- The processes for proscribing and deproscribing terrorist groups, which have resulted in the continued banning of some groups that no longer meet the statutory test, should be improved.
- More safeguards should be provided on the use of anti-terrorism powers¬†at ports and airports¬†– notably¬†the downloading of phones and laptops, and the retention of information taken from them.
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