UK: New counter-terrorism bill makes "thoughtcrime a reality" and extends sentences, offences and powers

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New counter-terrorism bill makes "thoughtcrime a reality" and extends sentences, offences and powers
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The government has published a new Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill that would criminalise a number of acts concerning expressions of support for banned organisations; extend the maximum sentences for a number of existing terrorist offences to 15 years; extending "notification requirements" so that individuals convicted of terrorist offences are subject to a regime similar to convicted sex offenders; and give local authorities - not just the police - the power to refer individuals to the counter-radicalisation Channel programme, amongst other proposals.

The proposals concerning expressions of support for banned groups - which would make such expressions illegal when they are deemed "reckless as to whether that will encourage others to support the organisation" - have been describing as making "throughcrime a reality" by civil liberties organisation Liberty.

See: Anti-terrorism plans 'will make thoughtcrime a reality'(The Guardian, link)

"Anti-terrorism proposals have been unveiled by the UK government that would make it an offence for people to publicly support a banned group even if they did not encourage others to do so (...)

Liberty said it was alarmed at the plans to amend existing offences under the planned counter-terrorism and border security bill, details of which were announced on Wednesday."

According to the Home Office (link):

"The bill will update, and close gaps in existing counter-terrorism legislation to ensure that it is fit for the digital age and reflect contemporary patterns of radicalisation. It was introduced to the House of Commons on 6 June 2018.

In addition, the bill will ensure that the punishment properly reflects the crime, better preventing re-offending, and ensure that terrorist offending can be disrupted more rapidly. It will also contribute to the government’s objective of hardening the UK’s defences against hostile state activity."

See: Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill 2017-19 (pdf) and: Parliament webpage for the bill (link)

The Home Office outlines the "main provisions" of the changes, which will (emphasis added):

  • extend the offence of inviting support for a proscribed organisation to cover expressions of support that are reckless as to whether they will encourage others to support the organisation
  • clarify that the offence of displaying in a public place an image which arouses reasonable suspicion that the person is a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation, covers the display of images online (including of a photograph taken in a private place)
  • update the offence of obtaining information likely to be useful to a terrorist to cover terrorist material that is just viewed or streamed over the internet, rather than downloaded to form a permanent record
  • confer extra-territorial jurisdiction on a number of further offences to ensure that individuals abroad can be prosecuted for having encouraged or carried out acts of terror overseas [these offences are: displaying an article associated with a proscribed organisation (section 13 of the Terrorism Act 2000); making or possessing explosives under suspicious circumstances (section 4 of the Explosive Substances Act 1883) where the offence is committed for terrorist purposes; making it possible to prosecute in the UK, if appropriate, the encouragement of terrorism overseas - see the terrorism offences factsheet below]
  • increase to 15 years’ imprisonment the maximum penalty for certain preparatory terrorism offences [these offences are: collection of information useful to a terrorist (section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000), up from 10 years; publishing information about members of the armed forces, intelligence services or police (section 58A of the Terrorism Act 2000), up from 10 years; encouragement of terrorism (section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2006), up from 7 years; dissemination of terrorist publications (section 2 of the Terrorism Act 2006), up from 7 years - see the sentencing factsheet below]
  • require Registered Terrorist Offenders to provide additional information to the police in line with what Registered Sex Offenders must provide
  • add terrorism offences to the list of offences for which an individual can be subjected to a Serious Crime Prevention Order to enable the ongoing management of an individual convicted of a terrorism offence
  • introduce a statutory bar on the admissibility as evidence in a criminal trial of oral admissions made in an examination at a port under a Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000
  • amend the Terrorism Act 2000 so that the detention clock can be paused when a detained person is transferred from police custody to hospital
  • amend the Reinsurance (Acts of Terrorism) Act 1993 so that the government-backed terrorism reinsurer, Pool Re, can extend its business interruption cover to include losses that are not contingent on physical damage to property
  • introduce a power to stop, question, search and detain an individual at a port or border area in order to determine whether they are, or have been, involved in hostile state activity [essentially based on Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 but with a connection to "hostile state activity" rather than terrorism]

There are other changes proposed by the bill, including giving local authorities the power to refer individuals to the Channel "counter-radicalisation" programme. Currently, only the police are able to make such referrals.

Road traffic powers (Anti-Terrorism Traffic Regulation Orders, ATTROs) will also be amended to remove the requirement to publicise in advance the existence of such an Order; to enable a local authority to charge the beneficiary of an ATTRO for the costs associated with it; to enable local authority staff or private security guards to "exercise discretion to allow accredited vehicles or persons through" manned security gates; and to "place on a statutory footing the powers of the police to deploy obstructions, such as bollards."

Changes are also proposed regarding biometric data, in order to increase the retention period for biometric data under 'National Security Determinations' (NSDs) from two to five years; to harmonise the retention periods for biometric data when individuals are arrested on suspicion of a terrorism offence under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and the Terrorism Act 2000; to enable the combination of biometric data from the same individual taken on different occasions into a single record; and to allow chief officers making NSDs to authorise the retention of biometric data taken in a force area other than their own.

Factsheets (pdfs)

Further Home Office documentation (pdfs)

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