This Act is the permanent anti-terrorism legislation in the UK. It works to combat the global problem of terrorism and the ways that terrorism is funded. With 2017 being arguably one of the most challenging years for police and security due to the UK terror attacks, the fight on terror is far from over. MI5's Andrew Parker stresses the severity of the problem by highlighting that the tempo of country terrorism operations in the highest he has ever seen it in his 34 year career.
In many cases, terrorist operations are fuelled from legitimate sources of money. By using clean money for deadly causes, they are tainting it, hence the name reverse money laundering.
The Act can be seen as a way to combat the financing of terrorism and consequently reduce the number of successful terrorist operations by leaving people more aware of where their money is going and therefore cuts off the money source for many terrorist groups.
Contents of the Act
- Replaces temporary legislation first passed in the 1970s to combat terrorism. The Prevention of Terrorism Act 1989, the Northern Ireland Act 1996, and parts of the Criminal Justice Act 1998 were all replaced with the Terrorism Act 2000.
- Widens the definition of 'terrorism' to apply to domestic matters as well as international incidents, therefore having the authority to cover more situations.
- Expands the definition of terrorism so that it refers to action that is used (or threatened) for the purpose of advancing a "political, religious or ideological cause" rather than just "violence for political ends". They define "action" as including: violence against a person, damage to property, serious risk to the health or safety of others and behaviour designed to interfere with or disrupt an electronic system. All authorities work off this definition to create a consistency across the board.
- Allows the police to hold people arrested for terrorism offences for a period of seven days.
- Gives the secretary of state the power to ban organisations and set out a range of offences connected with those organisations.
- Develops offences that are associated with financing and support for terrorism, as well as criminalising specific offences such as possessing information for terrorism or inciting overseas terrorism.
- Grants the police the authority to stop and search a person/vehicle without suspicion if they're operating in a designated area.
Evolution of the Act
The IRA ceasefire in 1994 was the event that triggered anti-terrorism action. The hopes for peace were raised for the nation after the deaths of more than 3,000 people caused the government to accept that there was a need for permanent terrorism legislation.
Lord Lloyd of Berwick was leading the inquiries for the government at the time, and he was the man that pushed for the changes. He wanted the Prevention of Terrorism Act to be reformed because of the fact it was always temporary provisions.
The definition of terrorism soon went on to include the term "violence". A move that proved to be controversial, especially when it widened even further, stating that terrorism included the use of "serious violence against persons or property". This was because critics claimed that this change would essentially put people who dig up genetically modified crops in the same category as an IRA bomber and could therefore be used to tamper with legitimate protests.
Many MPs expressed discomfort about the possible impact of the permanent legislation. This was because they feared the law gave the government permanent powers to restrain political protest. Additionally, they were concerned by the decision that allowed the home secretary to outlaw organisations believed to be involved in terrorism.
Specifically, section 44 has received heavy criticism from protesters who claim the police have used the power to prevent peaceful protests. Despite the House of Lords rejecting these claims, the use and misuse of stop and search remains controversial as part of the act. When Walter Wolfgang was forcibly removed from the audience of a political speech, police used their powers to prevent him from returning to the conference.
Since then, this section of the Act has been reformed and now police have to "reasonably suspect" a person in order to stop and search them. However, the area still leaves people split, with some arguing it makes the lives of the police harder, whilst the human rights campaigners 'Liberty' stress that the power had "criminalised and alienated more people than it ever protected".