This Bill seems to follow the now standard template for a Home Office Bill under the guiding fist of NuLabour. It used to be a fundamental principle of English Law that that which is not specifically prohibited by Staute is allowed.
However, NuLabour have continued the process started by the Tories, of producing "catch all" legislation which abuses words like "any" or "anything" which then grant the State infinite powers, thereby limiting the scope of any subsequent Judicial review or Court precedent on the details of the law.
This Terrorism Bill 2005 is yet another prime example of this despicable practice.
It is no comfort to claim that , in practice the Home Office and the Police will never actually use the full extent of the legal powers which they are seeking in order to repressthe vast majority normal decent hard working people - in prtactice, only lip service is paid to the concept of "proportionality, as is obvious from the abuse of the"stop and search without reasonable cause" powers of Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000..
They simply cannot be trusted not to do so, and they are creating the legilslative framework for a future even more extremist Government to do so with impunity.
Since there is so much much that is wrong with this Bill from a civil liberties viewpoint and even from a practical security viewpoint, we have had to split our comments across several blog postings, simply for readability. Comments are welcome.
- Misname the Title of the Bill, bearing in mind the advice by the fictional Sir Humphrey Appleby over 20 years ago in the TV series "Yes, Minister", to "dispose of the difficult part of the Bill in the title".
Why have they called this the Terrorism Bill, which, presumably if and when it is passed, will become the Terrorism Act 2005, which will be in addition to, and not a complete revision or replacemnet of the Terrorism Act 2000 ?
- Bury the apparently most controversial part of the Bill deep within the text.
This ensures that the Government can then play tricks with Programming Motions i.e. Parliamentary guillotines, which limit the amount of time for debate or amendment during the Committee Stage of the Bill in the House of Commons, almost guaranteeing that controversial measures in say, the Schedules at the end of the Bill, will never actually be debated or amended.
i.e. 23 Extension of period of detention by judicial authority, the extremely controversial 3 months detention without charge which will, of course concentrate most of the media headlines and active political opposition to the Bill.
As has been pointed out, 3 months detention without charge is equivalent ot a prison sentence of six months, all without even a charge being brought against a person, with no chance to refute any "evidence" against them. This is surely not compatible with the Right to a Fair Trial, under the Human Rights Act, no matter what the Home Secretary claims.
The deliberate distraction caused by 3 months detention without charge, then allows other only slightly less controversial powers to be slipped past the limited attention spans of the media and backbench Members of Parliament. e.g.
- Make a generalised catch all power, with a penalty of up to life emprisonment !
What on earth does
5 Preparation of terrorist acts mean specifically ?
Given that it could attract a life sentence one might expect the offence to be clearly spelled out on the face of the Bill, but it is not.
This is an astonishing and illogical power:
The actual commission of some of the "terrorist acts" spelled out in this Bill and in other legislation incur only a relatively light sentence e.g. a couple of years in prison. There are some existing offences, e.g. "directing a terrorist organisation" under the Terorism Act 2000, which do incur a possible life sentence.
However, if this Bill is passed into law, the mere "preparation" of the very same "terrorist acts" could attact a life sentence !
How can the actual commission of a terrorist act, of various kinds attract a lesser penalty than the mere "preparation" of such acts ?
How can this be just ? How is the punishment proportionate to the crime ?
Surely this will only encourage actual terrorist acts, and not reduce the likelyhood of them ?
Will this become the "anti-Soviet activities" style catch all power of a future Police State ?
How exactly does one prove terrorist "intent", not for actual demonstrable terrorist attacks, but for the far too vague and catch all "any conduct in preparation for..." ?
This section of the Bill should be dropped altogether, or at the very least
an amendment must be brought forward which limits the penalty for "preparation of terrorist acts" to be no more than the penalty for the actual commission of those self same acts themselves.
Part 2 of our comments on the terrorism Bill 2005
Part 3 of our comments on the terrorism Bill 2005