The Counter Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill received royal assent yesterday (Thursday 12 February). It is arguably the most far-reaching piece of anti-terrorism legislation to go onto the statute books since the Terrorism Act 2000, whose over-broad definition of terrorism underpins all subsequent legislation.
It was forced through Parliament with minimal debate, aided in its later stages by the atmosphere of hysteria that was created following the massacre of Charlie Hendo staff and others in Paris last month.
In introducing and extending systems of crime prevention and social control that are clearly targeted at Muslims, it goes further than any previous legislation in embedding islamophobia within the UK's legal system.
The law gives the government new powers to seize the passports of those it suspects of travelling for "terrorist" purposes. These powers are wide open to abuse, and it is certain that both intentional and unintended abuse will occur.
Even more alarmingly, it places a legal duty on GP's, teachers and other professionals to report those they suspect of being involved in terrorism.
The full implications of the Act are not yet clear, and leave a good deal of scope for further action to limit and mitigate this attack on our civil liberties. On the other hand, there is a grave risk that potentially far-reaching changes in the law could be intoduced through statutory instruments nodded through Parlaiment with minimal debate.
The implications for Scotland - and especially the degree to which responsibility for thought-policing will be passed on to Scottish local councils - are particularly unclear.
Please watch out for further updates on the Act, and on what we can do to limit the damage.
- Full text of the Counter Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill
- Statement from Cage UK
- Statement from IHRC