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 politicians gift to decide which historical events it is or isnt acceptable to ‘glorify’.” – as you would imagine, that 20 year limit has some bizarre implications here.
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