Encouraging and glorifying terrorism

Crooked Timber’s Chris Bertram picks up on the announcement yesterday by the UK’s Home Secretary Charles Clarke of draft amendments to the Prevention of Terrorism Act and argues, in reference to the amendment which will make it an offence to glorify, exalt or celebrate acts of terrorism unless they happened over 20 years ago, apart from those on a list which Charles Clarke will draw up – “it is just incompatible with a free society for it to be in some politician’s gift to decide which historical events it is or isn’t acceptable to ‘glorify’.” – as you would imagine, that 20 year limit has some bizarre implications here.

That amendment in full, via the Home Office website, which was helpfully linked by this Daily Telegraph report

2 Glorification of terrorism etc.

(1) A person commits an offence if –

(a) he publishes a statement or causes another to publish a statement on his behalf;

(b) the statement glorifies, exalts or celebrates the commission, preparation or instigation (whether in the past, in the future or generally) of acts of terrorism; and

(c) the circumstances and manner of the statement’s publication (taken together with its contents) are such that it would be reasonable for members of the public to whom it is published to assume that the statement expresses the views of that person or has his endorsement.

(2) It is irrelevant for the purposes of subsection (1) whether what is glorified, exalted or celebrated is the commission, preparation or instigation of one or more particular acts of terrorism, of acts of terrorism of a particular description or of acts of terrorism generally.

(3) A person is guilty of an offence under this section in respect of a statement glorifying, exalting or celebrating anything occurring more than 20 years before the publication of the statement only if the statement relates, whether directly or indirectly, to conduct or events specified for the purposes of this section by order made by the Secretary of State.

(4) The power of the Secretary of State to make an order under subsection (3) shall be exercisable by statutory instrument subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

(5) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable:

(a) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years or to a fine, or to both;

(b) on summary conviction in England and Wales, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or to both;

(c) on summary conviction in Scotland or Northern Ireland, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or to both.

(6) In relation to an offence committed before the commencement of section 154(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (c. 44), the reference in subsection (5)(b) to 12 months is to be read as a reference to 6 months.

So, it will be an offence to glorify, exalt or celebrate acts of terrorism unless they occurred over 20 years ago – unless those acts are included in a list of specified events.

It seems a completely abitrary line, and one which brings up the ludicrous prospect of it being an offence to glorify, exalt or celebrate, for example, the bombing of London Docklands in 1996.. but not the attempted assassination of an elected government, as in the bombing of the Brighton Grand Hotel in 1984.. nor, indeed, will it be an offence to glorify, exalt or celebrate the Dublin and Monaghan bombings in 1974 – unless they are include in Charles Clarke’s list.

According to the Guardian’s report, the Home Office have suggested that the list is likely to include such events as the 1916 Easter Rising, and the French Revolution.

The Guardian helpfully itemises the changes –

Clampdown and controls

Encouraging and glorifying terrorism: Two offences, carrying a jail sentence of up to seven years. Covers published statements, including internet ones, which amount to the “direct or indirect encouragement” of terrorist acts or those which “glorify, exalt, or celebrate” such acts. Does not cover statements on events of more than 20 years ago; but some events are absent from the limit. Otherwise, 9/11 is “listed”, the 1916 Easter Rising is not.

Disseminating terrorist publications: Covers radical written material from extremist bookshops. Includes training manuals.

Preparing terrorist acts and training: Carries a life sentence. Anyone involved in instruction concerning using “noxious substances” or adapting any techniques for use in terrorism will face a 10-year sentence. An offence of “attending a terrorist training camp” anywhere in the world will also carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

Banning extremist groups: Ban extended from those directly involved in terrorism to those who “glorify, exalt or celebrate” terrorist acts. Hizb-ut-Tahrir has been named by Tony Blair as a target. Also provisions for preventing groups escaping the ban by changing their name.

Making and holding radioactive devices and damaging nuclear facilities:Extends the offence of criminal trespass to licensed civil nuclear sites.

Supergrasses: Sentence discount of up to 60% to give incentive to divulge information.

Detention of terrorist suspects: The maximum period of detention without charge is to be extended from 14 days to up to three months.

Phonetap evidence used in trials: Work with security services exploring possibility of safeguarding sources and methods. Completed by December.

Full details of the draft amendments at the Home Office website

  • fair_deal

    Wait until 2016 and you can say Canary wharf was great. It’ll be ok to say the Dublin and Monaghan bombs were wonderful but you go to jail if you say the same about the Sean Graham’s bookies massacre.

    This just shows what utter junk most of the legislation is. Knee-jerk/Panic measures that won’t tackle terror.

    A government action that can primarily tackle terrorism is investment in intelligence monitoring and evidence gathering not pointless laws. However, you can’t have lots of press coverage about that, a chance to scare the populace or to score political points off your opponents.

    Sensible measures like phone-tapping and bugging admissibility are ignored but stupid legal measures that drive terrorists or their supporters underground further making intelligence gathering even more difficult.

  • Brian

    alas this will be another law which will not apply to the north, much like the 11 plus et al

  • Friendly Fire

    Is glorifying terrorism spreading news?

  • fair_deal


    It will apply to Northern Ireland.

    “Section 33(5) Subject to section 13(6) and to subsection (4) of this section, this Act extends to the whole of the United Kingdom.”

  • Fanny

    What does it say about a government composed largely of solicitors and barristers that it can come up with such bad law?

  • Alan McDonald


    We have the same cute whores on this side of the Atlantic. Must be the common (smarmy) gene pool.

  • tra g

    So this would mean that the orange order not only breached the determination of the Parades Commission on several ocasions during last Saturdays parade, but would also have been liable to prosecution under this new legislation.

    The fact that an orange lodge taking part in the parade last week, carried a bannerette commemorating uvf killer Brian Robinson, would presumably have led to prosecutions.

    The bannerette was carried during the parade in 2003 and was mentioned in the parades commission report after the march.It was carried by former shankill butcher Eddie McIlwaine(complete with orange sash).The lodge in question,the Old Island Boyne Heroes LOL633 was led by the Shankill Star flute band, which also carries the name of uvf man Robinson on its drum and insignia.

    You can read about Mr McIlwaine below.


    The orange order gave an undertaking that it would no longer be carried during the annual parade.

    Until last week, that was.

    I googled Brian Robinson and came up with the following pics.



    Sorry, but I think it would be difficult to bring a prosecution under the circumstances you mentioned.
    Unless the Order specifically mentioned paramiltary membership, or paramilitary deeds, then all they are doing is honouring an individual.

    Using your interpretation of the law, one could argue that voting for Sinn Fein ought to be a punishable offence.

  • Yoda

    *shakes head*

  • tony


    have you got a medical condition

  • Yoda

    No. Just a healthy sense of disbelief.

  • peteb

    Perhaps an elaboration on your disbelief would assist, Yoda.

  • Yoda

    Ok, I’ll try.

    I simply don’t know how this was seen as a serious solution by intelligent people. It creates the absurdities your piece points out.

    I’m stupefied by this in particular: “Some examples which have been put forward of events that might not qualify for inclusion are the Easter Uprising or the French Revolution.”


    The proposal admits to the historical merits of “terrorism” while wanting to disavow them: on the one hand, “terrorism” is a powerful and progressive force, and on the other, “terrorism” is a purely destructive force that *must* be condemned (for twenty years anyway). “Terrorism” is clearly both.

    It’s like an edict to stop history. Maybe Fukuyama was on to something…

    Also, the notion that certain “events” can be deemed to be “absent from the limit” worries me as well: who gets the job of parsing history to make up the list of exclusions? What criteria would they use? Public opinion? Private conscience? Would that then be the “official” history?

    The state will always seek to appropriate all violence to itself; it gets annoyed when it is no longer the sole one able to do violence to or kill its own citizens. This just seems like an unusually cackhanded way of revealing that.

  • Raff

    Good comment Yoda, history is written by the victors, but maybe if it is legislated properly for history can be written by anyone!

    Also it would be important to point out that Provisional Sinn Fein claim a direct line from the Sinn Fein of old and claim to be a revolutionary party which has the names of many PIRA men attached to their cummain. If this legislation is to pass will the British government be rounding up and imprisoning ALL members of PSF?
    Also don’t forget about the DUP and their links to various terrorist groupings.

  • abucs

    So does that mean i have to wait the best part of 2 decades before i can glorify the war against Weapons of Mass Destruction ?

    And another whole year before i can celebrate the US bombing of Tripoli and the dozens of civilians killed there, followed by the US Panama invasion a few years later.

    Well, at least i can celebrate the bombing of the “Rainbow Warrior” in New Zealand by the French in 1985.

  • spirit-level

    The middle finger to all you wooly liberal whingers 😉
    This law means we can rid the country of alot of arse****s,…. and if they get tortured back home; tough shit. They don’t seem overly concerned about the human rights of the July 2005 london bomb victims.

  • spirit-level

    The middle finger to all you wooly liberal whingers, where ever you are 🙂
    This law means we can rid the country of alot of arse****s.

  • Raff

    spirit-level you seem to infer that ALL terrorists come from out side of the UK and Ireland, have you seen any news over the past 35 years?

  • Occasional Commentator

    What’s the legal definition of “terrorism” in terms of this law? Or perhaps there isn’t a definition written into law? I remember seeing a definition in Irish law that seemed to me to include organising an everyday strike by a trade union.