The Terrorism Acts
The Terrorism Act 2000
The Terrorism Act 2000 greatly widens the definition of terrorism and gives the government the power to proscribe particular organisations. It criminalises a wide variety of activities considered to be in support of proscribed organisations. It extends UK law to cover activities carried out in foreign countries.
Subsequent terrorism acts have had the effect of introducing changes to the Terrorism Act 2000. Unfortunately, the government hasn't published a straightforward text of the Act as it now applies, although there have been suggestions that it should do so.
21 Groups were proscribed under the Act in March 2001. A further four were proscribed in October 2002 and a following 15 groups were proscribed on 14 October 2005. 46 organisations are currently proscribed, 2 of them under powers introduced in the Terrorism Act 2006, as glorifying terrorism. A further 14 organisations in Northern Ireland are proscribed under previous legislation.
The Anti-terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001
The key provision of the Anti-terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001 (ATCSA 2001) was section 23 - detention without trial of foreigners who are suspected of terrorism and who could not be deported. This provision was ruled unlawful by the Law Lords in a landmark decision inDecember 2004 and was allowed to lapse in March 2005 (when it was due for renewal)
The Act also gives the police wide new powers to investgate anyone suspected of activities criminalised by the Terrorism Act 2000.
The Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005
The Act was rushed through Parliament after the detention powers contained in the Anti-terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001 were rule unlawful by the Law Lords in December 2004. The news creates a system of "control orders" through which the Home Secretary can impose restrictions - including house arrest - on anyone he suspects of a connection with terrorism. Unlike the ACTSA 2001 detention powers, the new powers applt to British citizens as well as to foreign nationals
Terrorism Act 2006
The Act creates a new offence of "encouragement" of terrorism an extends the time for which police can hold a terrorism suspect beforemaking a charge to 28 days. It also introduces a number of other new measures and amendments to existing legislation.
The Counter Terrorism Act 2008
This Act extends the injustice of earlier legislation in a number of ways, including :
- Post-charge questioning of ‘terror suspects’ – 'Terror suspects' can be subjected to further questioning after a criminal charge, even up to the trial date. Saying nothing can count against them at trial.
- 'Terrorist connection' would can a heavier sentence. Judges can give people longer sentences for ordinary offences if they have a 'terrorism connection' – for example, allegedly supporting a banned 'terrorist' organization. Such allegations could be based on the broad definition in the Terrorism Act 2000, including normal political activities.
- Freezing of bank accounts - Any individual suspected of a terrorist connection can have his bank account frozen by the Treasury.
- Extra punishment without trial beyond the original sentence - convicted ‘terrorists’ could face a ban on foreign travel once released from jail. They can also be required to tell the police where they go whenever they sleep away from home, in some cases for life.
- New offence for volunteers of not giving information to police - Volunteer workers, for example in a youth project or a charity, could be prosecuted for not telling police about suspected ‘terrorist’ activities. People may be afraid of working for causes such as Palestine in case normal activism strays into ‘terrorism.
- New offence of providing information about the armed forcesIt becomes an offence to seek or communicate information about the armed forces which could be useful to terrorism. This could apply simply to peace protestors telling each other what happens at a military base.
Government plans to use the Act to extend pre-trlal detention to 42 days were dropped after a lengthy parliamentary battle.