The Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill 2020 is progressing through the UK Parliament and has completed it's 1st and 2nd readings and its committee stage. Dates for its report stage and 3rd hearing have not yet (15 July) been announced.
The Bill will not enhance public security. On the contrary it will:
- Extend punishment without trial, including even internal exile, renewable indefinitely;
- Turn ordinary crimes into ‘terrorist’ ones, as subjective grounds for more severe sentences;
- Incentivise racist stereotyping of ‘non-violent extremism’ to justify those two powers;
- and thus go further in criminalising communities.
In the midst of the COVID-19 lockdown, the Home Secretary tabled a draft bill on 20 May when any serious parliamentary and civil society scrutiny is well nigh impossible. This is the eighth Counter-Terrorism Bill following the founding Terrorism Bill 2000 which made emergency powers permanent and became the basis of subsequent bills which were put in after significant terror attacks.
A full statement by CAMPACC (which SACC supports) can be read here.
"The truth that the government has not confronted, is that, for two decades its counter-terrorism strategy has failed. We have seen sporadic terror attacks where critical intelligence has failed to pick them up. No level of repressive measures eroding civil liberties and the rule of law in the name of security has protected the public. The government has failed to recognise that its unjust wars and support for repressive regime has led to increased threat of terrorism.
Lord Steyn's critical observation when discussing the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 remains true in 2020: ‘.. it is the first duty of Government to protect citizens from harm ….but it does not excuse the endless excesses and acts of lawlessness committed in the name of the war on terror… Surely, objectively speaking, the Bill can be seen to be an attempt to lead the public to think that it is a serious attempt to improve security. It does nothing of the kind.’
More powers for cops, spooks and judges are not in the interests of ordinary people—the bill must be opposed by every one and every organisation who are defending civil liberties and are fighting against the criminalisation of innocent civilians and vulnerable communities."
The Bill, as ammended in Committee and published on 8 July, can be read here.