The Home Office is planning to bring a bill before Parliament by mid-March to toughen up terrorism laws in the UK.
This follows an “urgent review” of licence conditions after November’s London Bridge knife attack – when a man who had been released early from his terrorism sentence killed two people. Home Secretary Priti Patel told the BBC that some “hard truths” had to be faced. In a statement last week, Patel also said there would be a review of, “…the way agencies such as police and the probation service investigate, monitor and manage terror offenders.”
What does that mean?
The new ‘Counter-Terrorism Bill’ would introduce various new and enhanced safety and monitoring options, including:
- Lie detector tests
- Minimum of 14 years in prison for those convicted of serious terrorism-related offences (such as preparing acts of terrorism)
- Doing away with early release for prisoners who are determined to be “dangerous”
- Doubling the number of counter-terrorism probation officers
- More training for relevant prison and probation staff to help them identify and counter extremism
- More specialist psychologists and Imams to work on de-radicalisation projects
- Increased availability in probation hostels to help offenders adjust after their release
- A boost to counter terrorism police funding of £90m year-on-year
- £500,000 to support victims of terrorism
Lie detector (polygraph) tests are currently only used for sex offenders, but the proposed new law would mean they can be used on terrorism offenders to check that they have not re-joined extremist groups and are not planning any further terror-related activity after their release.
Another report features a slightly different proposed new law, which is creating a bit of controversy.
This proposed law would make it an offence to be in possession of “terrorist propaganda that glorifies or encourages extremism.” (Although the exact wording is still under discussion.)
It is currently an offence to distribute that type of material, but technically not an offence to be in possession of it.
The UK independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, Jonathan Hall QC, explained in The Guardian that the new offence listing could be useful if framed in the right way. “It is not always possible to show that a person has disseminated terrorist material, and, for a limited category of material… it may be sensible to prohibit possession of extreme terrorist material.”
The Guardian suggests that, “The prosecution should have to prove the material was produced to encourage or glorify terrorism,” and that legislation needs to avoid penalising/targeting journalists and human rights defenders.
In April 2019 it became illegal to, “Recklessly express support for, or publish images of flags, emblems or clothing in a way which suggests you are a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation and (to be involved in) certain preparatory terrorism offences, including encouragement of terrorism or the dissemination of terrorist publications.”
It has also been an offence, since April 2019, to publish certain images and to view terrorist material via the internet.
Counter-terrorism continues to evolve as terrorism itself continues to change. Our government recognises that there is a very real threat at home and abroad, and will no doubt make more changes and introduce new measures to prevent it as new information and intelligence become available.
Remember that you can take your own preventative steps too by being alert wherever you go and reporting any suspicious items or activities. You can also financially protect your local and international travel plans with Safe Journey, from as little as £15.66 per person for an entire year* – so any time you have at least one night’s accommodation booked you’ll be covered without even having to think about it.
*Annual multi-trip cover from £15.66 per person provides a full year of cover for acts of terrorism (when you travel locally or internationally) for all trips of up to 31 days duration. You can also get a single trip policy from just £5.17pp for up to 8 days. Please read our Policy Wording for full details of cover, Ts+Cs and exclusions.
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