The House of Lords has now completed its consideration of the controversial Terrorism Bill 2005. The next stage in the legislation is for the House of Commons to vote on wether or not to accept the Lords' Amendments
The last major Opposition amendment related to the censorship of the internet, mostly web sites with respect to the dissemination of material which might "glorifiy or encourage" terrorism.
This amendment passed by a single vote, without the presence of the Home Office Minister in the Lords, Baroness Scotland of Asthall, who was absent for family reasons.
Originally Clause 3 , gave arbitrary power to any "police constable", relying on his or her "opinon" to issue a Notice, which if not immediately complied with, automatically deemed the person or persons on which it had been served as being complicit in disseminating terrorist publications, even if they did not actually agree with the sentiments expressed in such publications.
This put, for example, an Internet Service Provider at risk of up to 7 years in prison if someone complained and they had not acted, say over a weekend or a Bank Holiday. This stupid wording was previously amended to extend the notice period to
working days, and not to count weekends or Bank Holidays.
The Lords have now insisted on bringing a Judge into the process of issuing a censorship notice, but the legislation still assumes that the only method of disseminating such information us via a website or internet service provider or company.
It is indicative of the unpractical, unworkable Home Office attitude to legislation, that such vague, catch-all wording, without any proper checks and balance, should ever have been presented in a Bill in the first place.
Even as amended, this section of the Bill has no hope of being enforced against international encrypted peer to peer networks, without a central hub of operations, such as those used to share music and video files, sometimes in breach of copyright.
Will such networks now be characterised as "terrorist" as well as "pirate", even though copyright abuse is only a civil matter and not a criminal one in all but the most large scale cases ?
Will the disproportionate excuse of "terrorist investigations" be used to compromise the private identities of ISP customers who make use if such file sharing systems ?