Just a reminder that the remaining Committee stages of the dreadful Counter-Terrorism Bill 2008, being debated in the House of Lords today, still contain plenty of things which should not be allowed onto the statute book. e.g.
The Counter-Terrorism Bill 2008 Clause 83 Offences relating to information about members of armed forces etc.
UPDATE: this clause has now been re-numbered to be Clause 75, in the version of the Bill which goes forward to the Report stage in the House of Lords.
(1) After section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (c. 11) (collection of information)
"58A Eliciting, publishing or communicating information about members of armed forces etc
(1) A person commits an offence who--
(a) elicits or attempts to elicit information about an individual who is or has been--
(i) a member of Her Majesty's forces,
(ii) a member of any of the intelligence services, or
(iii) a constable,
Why are all police constables covered by this ?
Why not current and former Judges, prosecutors and prison warders ?
Why are witnesses not "protected" in this way either ?
which is of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism, or
(b) publishes or communicates any such information.
(2) It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section
to prove that they had a reasonable excuse for their action.
Why should you have to prove that you are innocent ? It should be the prosecution who have to prove that you are guilty.
The increasingly common "reverse burden of proof" evil, which the Home Office keeps inflicting on everyone - they really do not like the traditional "golden thread" of English justice, that of "Innocent until proven guilty, beyond reasonable doubt, on actual evidence", do they ?
Surely this will have a chilling effect on journalists , bloggers and biography writers etc. ?
Will the study of military history be illegal ?
All the senior members of the Royal Family are current or former military officers. Will the vast publishing and media industry which surrounds them now be deemed to be illegal ?
It is likely that this law will be used by petty jobsworths, to try to harass anyone who takes a photograph of any military , or police personnel.
Since it also covers former members of the armed forces, surely this will chill any reporting of, or even the organisation of, Remembrance Sunday / Poppy Appeal memorial parades and events etc ?
(3) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable--
(a) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or to a fine, or to both;
(b) on summary conviction--
(i) in England and Wales or Scotland, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or to both;
(ii) in Northern Ireland, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or to both.
(4) In this section "the intelligence services" means the Security Service, the Secret Intelligence Service and GCHQ (within the meaning of section 3 of the Intelligence Services Act 1994 (c. 13)).
Why is any of this necessary given the "thought crime" over broadness of the existing Terrorism Act 2000 section 58, which has been used to convict Abu Bakr Mansha to 6 years in prison, for the possession of a single, out of date address of a serving British soldier ?
Given the hundreds of thousands of military names, addresses and other personal details which have been lost or stolen recently, what use is this clause 83 in practice ?
See the previous Spy Blog article: Counter-Terrorism Bill Clause 83 - chilling effect on reporting or speculation about military or intelligence service or police personnel ?